Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sadness SAD and the effects of our environment can all become contributing factors on our wellbeing and mental health. When we encounter individuals with this condition, it’s important to remember that it’s not as straightforward as it may appear.

What is SAD?

The commonly used acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s sometimes confused with a generic dislike or displeasure with the winter months. For instance, we may hear somebody comment flippantly that they “wish it was sunny” or that the weather was more like the Caribbean. However this disorder has a visible and impactful effect on people, who find they suffer with an assortment of physical and psychological symptoms. They may exhibit insomnia, become anti-social or they may adopt a feeling of hopelessness leading to a decline in their energy levels.

Working with participants with SAD

It’s really important to reassure individuals that it’s okay to feel sad and to take their concerns, anxieties and thoughts into account. It’s critical that participants aren’t made to feel embarrassed or to have their anxious sentiments discarded. Helping to make them feel they’re not alone is an effective start in supporting somebody. Assisting a participant with Seasonal Affective Disorder can be difficult because of the effects from the outside environment. It can be challenging – because of shorter days and less sunlight – they might not wish to speak about how they’re feeling.

Support methods

Helping someone to think optimistically about our outside environment can help. At first glance, during the winter months in this country, the trees, foliage and natural vegetation can seem decayed, bare and skeletal. The bright greenery is replaced by darker, more melancholic tones and the temperatures make it difficult to feel like going outside. Yet in this situation, it’s beneficial to remind a participant that the natural environment is only moving through a phase of rejuvenation and regeneration in the winter months. A array of vibrant colours will return again. Altering a perception of the colder, darker months to instil a sense of hope is crucial in changing viewpoints that are central to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The strength of our imaginations

We can remember that everything has an opposite and that out of difficulty lies opportunity. We should encourage participants struggling with the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder to see the beauty in the natural environment, reinforcing the fact that colour will return. Trees are just nurturing themselves for the spring when they will once again flourish; we too can grow and heal. Reminding the participant that the natural environment is preparing itself for spring and new beginnings. We can simply try to instil fresh hope and reassure that brighter days are always ahead.

When you’re not feeling OK

I used to hate feeling low for no reason that I could think of.  I would “hibernate”, tuck my head under my Duvet and think “Nope – I can’t do this”, or “Nope – don’t want to do this”.

My family and friends would try to cajole me with “come on, it’s a beautiful day” or “come on, lets grab a coffee”, or “come on, you’ll feel better after a shower”.  The last comment always made me feel Red Rage! But I would never say.  I just used to think “leave me alone, let me sleep, just leave me be”.

Does this sound familiar?

I know they all had good intentions, that it upset them seeing me like this but when you’re in it – you’re just in it aren’t you?  That’s what it was like for me.

But I didn’t want to feel like this, I wanted to feel joy, I wanted to feel content, I wanted to be the person I knew I could be.  But how?  I started to name my feelings and my emotions, something I could put my finger on.   These were my words, no one else’s, just mine; fed up, overwhelmed, upset, sad, angry, concerned, worried, scared and sometimes I said, “I just don’t know”.

Building resilience

I started to build on my resilience with small steps.  I set myself little goals like getting up before 9am and making sure that I was in bed with lights out by 10.30.  Yes, it took me a while to stop all the negative thoughts at night but that’s when mindfulness came into play.  I would be mindful of the clock ticking or I would focus on the noise of the wind, rain or of my dog snoring.  But slowly my sleep pattern changed.  I was sleeping during the night instead of pacing around.

My next little step was to do something that I really enjoyed which was walking with my dog.  I focused on the beauty of sky, how the birds flew overhead or how my feet felt as I took each step.

Words started popping into my head about how I felt like exhilarated, good and calmer.  The little goals I kept setting for myself were helping me to achieve a feeling of purpose, a feeling of meaning and dare I say it, content?

Different things for different people

Different things work for different people, we can only try.  And there will be days when you Don’t Feel OK, but that’s OK too.  Try to look at those feelings and emotions and name them.  Do something nice for you, see a friend, watch something that makes you laugh on TV, think of a nice meal you could prepare and cook, play loud music, dance like no-one is watching.  Remember, those little goals or steps are there for you to help you to feel OK.

Introducing our new Coordinator in Basildon

My name’s Jenny and I’m the new centre manager at Signpost Basildon.

I have supported many participants who suffer with mental illness throughout the years. And although it can be difficult at times, they have been able to endure these struggles and flourish in all aspects of life with my assistance. Now I’m here to help you, alongside Signpost Basildon, where we provide a tailored program to each participant, along with resources and support to facilitate your journey and help you achieve your goals. You are not alone, we are here for you and cannot wait to meet you. Please come to meet our team and find out if we might be able to support you or someone you know.