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Navigating Anxiety, Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the transitional phase of nature's seasons, many of us may find ourselves grappling with Seasonal affective Disorder (SAD) and symptoms of depression and anxiety. As the days grow shorter and temperatures drop, people are starting to seek understanding and coping mechanisms to better navigate the emotional challenges that can accompany these shifts. In this blog post, we'll explore the appearance of seasonal depression and anxiety, and explore insights and strategies for a more resilient approach.

Understanding Seasonal Depression and Anxiety:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, most commonly during the autumn and winter, and anxiety, too, can intensify during these seasons. The reasons behind these seasonal shifts in mental health are layered and often involve factors like changes in exposure to sunlight affecting vitamin D levels, disruptions in circadian rhythms affecting sleep, and altered serotonin levels affecting mood stability.

Symptoms of SAD and seasonal anxiety and depression may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day.

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.

  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight.

  • Having problems with sleep.

  • Feeling sluggish or agitated.

  • Having low energy.

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless.

  • Having difficulty concentrating.

  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia).

  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates.

  • Weight gain.

  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”).

So why does your mood change with the seasons? How could you better manage your anxiety and emotions during the darker days?

The Biological Clock and Sunlight Exposure:

The human body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is deeply influenced by sunlight. Reduced exposure to natural light during the autumn and winter months, can disrupt this rhythm, affecting mood-regulating neurotransmitters (‘feel good’ chemicals) such as serotonin and melatonin, leading to more stress in the body. Exploring the science behind circadian rhythms could help you make informed choices to counteract these effects and better support yourself.

Mindfulness and Seasonal Transitions:

Exploring mindfulness practices that help you to stay present during seasonal transitions can be excellent in supporting you to be more in tune with your mind and body. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and hypnosis have shown positive effects in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Connecting with Others:

Understanding the social aspects of mental health is another important factor. The ‘winter blues’ can be isolating, but reaching out to friends, family, and other community and support groups can create a network of understanding and connection. Maybe there is an activity or hobby you have always been curious to try, now could be the time!

Nutrition and Lifestyle Choices:

The relationship between nutrition and mood can be fascinating. Certain foods and times of consumption may contribute to mood stability and general wellbeing.

- Did you know that when you are feeling depressed or anxious, the body craves carbohydrates and sugar as this encourages serotonin production, however sugary snacks and overeating can actually make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse leading to a visious cycle.

Exploring your nutritional choices, along with regular physical activity, can be part of a more holistic strategy to combat seasonal depression and anxiety. Exercise - even walking - produces endorphins which are big mood boosters. When we target the roots of symptoms, our symptoms can dramatically improve.

Professional Guidance:

Some shifts in mood and wellbeing are normal, as we are human beings designed to experience all of the emotions. However, if constant emotional dysregulation and ongoing anxiety and depression are present for you, professional guidance could be a crucial step in supporting yourself. Mental health professionals can provide you with personalised insights and coping strategies tailored to your individual needs.

In the face of seasonal depression and anxiety exploring the intricate connections between your own biology, lifestyle, and mental health means that you can take proactive steps towards better managing your well-being. The journey is not about finding quick fixes but rather about building a toolkit of knowledge and strategies for a more resilient and fulfilling experience in life.

If you are interested in finding out more about using Hypnotherapy as a tool to support you with symptoms of anxiety, depression and SAD, contact me today to find out more and to book in a free initial consultation.

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