Think You Might Be Suffering From Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Now that we’re into 2021 and the initial enthusiasm of New Year resolutions (if you made any) has started to wear off, many people are filled with dread.Why? –  because they know that their symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (sometimes called “Winter Blues”) will really kick in, if they didn’t start in November when the clocks went back.

If you hate the long winter evenings, feel exhausted, depressed and anxious and feel that hibernation would be preferable, you could be a sufferer.  Most of us are affected to some extent by the changes in light, as well as craving stodgier comfort foods but for some people the longer, dark nights have far more of an effect.

For these people, feeling very low in mood, having negative thoughts and feelings also resul in a loss of self-esteem. Rather than just feel lethargic, they feel extreme fatigue to such an extent that they have an almost irresistible urge to sleep for several hours during the day. Their feelings of tension increase and their ability to deal with stress decreases.

Other symptoms may include increased irritability and a reduced interest in sex and physical contact.

SAD can begin at any age and may be triggered by other factors such as a change in environment, childbirth or illness. It occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres but is rare within 30 degrees of the equator.

The theory is that lack of sunlight may stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly which may affect the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher levels); the production of serotonin which is another hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels; when the hypothalamus isn’t working properly it also affects the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and this impacts on various functions such as when you wake up. The lower light levels in winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to the symptoms above.

Most sufferers find that their symptoms improve and then disappear during the spring and summer, only to return again in the autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern. It may be that some people are more susceptible than others to SAD.

If you find that you’re experiencing the above symptoms, you should consider seeing your GP if you’re struggling to cope. You may be asked about your lifestyle, eating and sleeping patterns, and any change in mood or behaviour. Your GP will then recommend the most suitable treatment option for you, based on the nature and severity of your symptoms. A combination of treatments may be used to get the best results.

A number of treatments are available for SAD including cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, lifestyle measures and light therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be helpful in treating SAD symptoms. CBT is based on the idea that we way we think and behave affects the way we feel. Changing the way you think about situations and what you can do about them can help you to feel better.
  • Antidepressant medication may be prescribed – these are usually selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Lifestyle measures such as getting as much natural sunlight as possible (a short walk at lunchtime can help), managing stress and exercising regularly may well be helpful.
  • Light therapy – a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight. This involves sitting by a special lamp called a light box, usually for around 30 minutes each morning. The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) have specific guidelines for light boxes which may help. The recommended light boxes have filters to remove harmful ultraviolet rays.

The things that you can try for yourself include the lifestyle measures above, making your work and home environments as light and airy as possible as well as sitting near windows when you’re indoors. Eat a balanced diet, even though it’s tempting to eat a lot of carbohydrates.

By recognising the symptoms associated with SAD it is possible to then access treatment and hopefully this will help to alleviate the worst effects so that you can look forward to the remaining winter months without trepidation.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Thinking About New Year’s Resolutions?

Are you thinking about the resolutions that you might make on New Year’s Eve? A lot of us will be doing so right now – maybe we’ll resolve to stop smoking, drink less or lose weight but it seems that only one in 10 of us will achieve our goal.  Here are a few tips to make sure that this year you succeed with your resolution(s):

  1. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution – take some time right now, a few days beforehand, to reflect about what you’re really hoping to achieve.
  2. Make only one resolution – your chances of success are greater when you channel your energy into changing just one aspect of your behaviour.
  3. By breaking down your resolutions into smaller goals, you’re more likely to succeed.
  4. Tell your family and friends what you’re hoping to do – they may well support you when you feel like giving up.
  5. Keep reminding yourself about the benefits of achieving your goal. This will help you to keep going. Write down these benefits to look at when you’re tempted to go back to your old ways.
  6. Whatever resolution you’ve chosen, try to accept that you may need help and support with it. If you want to stop smoking, visit your GP Surgery for help and guidance from a Stop Smoking Clinic, nicotine patches, lozenges or you could try hypnosis. If you want to lose weight, join a slimming club (you can do this on-line as well as attending classes, especially as none of us know what restrictions might be in place during the coming months). There is usually some support available whatever your resolution happens to be.
  7. Don’t focus on the downside of what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re hoping to lose weight try not to think about the foods you can’t eat but focus instead on how, in six weeks’ time, you’ll be able to buy clothes that are a size smaller.
  8. Expect to revert back to your old habits sometimes but treat it as a temporary setback rather than a reason to give up altogether.
  9. If you feel that your success might be hampered by low self-esteem or lack of assertiveness, consider counselling to help you overcome this.

Good luck with whatever resolution you’ve chosen and I hope that by this time next year, you’ll have achieved whichever goal you’re setting for yourself.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Wishing You A Very Happy Christmas

I wish every one of you a happy Christmas – thank you for reading my blogs and for those of you who also comment, I really appreciate it.

Whatever Christmas means for you, if it hasn’t worked out as you’d hoped, I hope that you can still enjoy whatever pleasures the day brings and go forward with renewed hope for the future.

Keep reading and if you want me to write a blog about a particular subject, please let me know! I’m always looking for new, relevant ideas.

“Smooth Seas Don’t Make A Good Sailor”

There’s an African proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.” In other words, it’s the hard knocks in life that soften our rough edges and help to shape us into someone who is resilient.

Whilst I think it’s true that having to deal with difficulties and disappointments often help to shape our characters, surely some people have too much to cope with? Life’s knocks can get us down especially if we have no real support, have to deal with a lot of ill health or cope with several bereavements within a short space of time.

The school of hard knocks isn’t the only way to build up resilience – there are several ways to get through hard times so that we can bounce back and feel happier. I have a lot of empathy for people whose lives have gone downhill with all the negativity that they’ve had to cope with but if you’re reading this in the hope of developing more emotional strength and feel  that you have too much to cope with, try the following  and see how you get on. I’m not saying that you won’t feel overwhelmed at times, but these tips will hopefully diminish those feelings so that you’ll feel happier again:

  • When things go wrong, try thinking “things will eventually get better, even if I can’t see that right now”. Being resilient is partly about realising that it’s unlikely to always be that way, even if you can’t see a way out right now.
  • Find something, however small that you can control – there are loads of things we can’t control and these include big challenges like broken relationships, bereavement or redundancy but by taking small steps in almost any area of life can help us to see a brighter future.
  • Sometimes we undermine our own resilience by thinking “Is this down to me?” rather than realising that sometimes things are out of our control such as when the car breaks down (’I should have made sure it was serviced’) or when we’re late and it’s had a knock-on effect on other things (‘I should have prioritised more; I’m no good at anything’). Give yourself a break emotionally and recognise that if you’ve had a lot of other more serious things to deal with, smaller things like servicing the car can easily get pushed to one side. Try to think about what you can do to stop the problem occurring again.
  • Focus on what’s gone right even if that’s hard – there will be one or two things that have actually been positive, even if other negative things have piled up. I’m not suggesting that if you’ve had a death in your family or are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you shouldn’t let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost, whether that’s a person dear to you or a frightening illness, but even on the darkest days there will be one or two things that have been alright. It could be a kindly neighbour who’s taken in a parcel for you or even cooked you a meal, or that there was a glimmer of sunshine after hours of rain. Even on the worst of days, there will be some little things that were good and they can make a difference.
  • This isn’t about living a life where you pretend things are always fine but more about getting a perspective.
  • Ask other people to help you – when we have problems it’s so easy to feel isolated. Social media ensures that we’re constantly seeing people who apparently have perfect lives, having achieved great things but realistically, however true those stories are, most of us need help at times so don’t be afraid to ask for that if you’re struggling. This doesn’t have to put a burden on the person you’re asking for help – maybe you just need someone to listen or to share their knowledge about something that they know more about than you do.
  • Find something to laugh at – it could be an old episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, but really, anything that floats your boat so that you’re having a laugh, is good; really good.
  • Finally, find a distraction – it often helps to take time out, even if it’s only for a few minutes. One of the best things is exercise if you can motivate yourself to get out there and walk in the fresh air or go to a yoga or meditation class. This can often help us to think more clearly.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Setting Boundaries In Relationships

This sounds easy doesn’t it? But actually, maintaining and reinforcing boundaries in relationships is a hard thing for a lot of people to manage. Part of it is about not being able to say “no” to other people and not wanting to disappoint them. This is even if it’s at the expense of your own energy and time. Sounds familiar? I’ve sometimes found putting down boundaries hard myself so I know it’s easy to get into that role of not respecting yourself enough.

Here are a few things to try:

  • First of all, you need to give yourself permission to set some boundaries, rather than falling in with what someone is asking of you. For instance, if you feel that you should say “yes” to a friend’s requests for help because that’s what being a good friend means, try to work out whether that’s always realistic and necessary. If you’re always the one doing the giving, try to say something like “I can’t fit that in this week, but I might be able to next month”.
  • It’s difficult to set good boundaries until you’re sure of where you stand – everyone has physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Think about what you can accept and sometimes tolerate and what makes you feel uncomfortable and follow those through.
  • Tune into what you want – resentment usually comes about when we feel unappreciated or taken advantage of. Or, it might be that someone is always pushing their own views and values onto you. It’s alright to say “I don’t really agree with that” – there doesn’t need to be an argument about it; you’re entitled to an opinion and just because someone might be more articulate than you, doesn’t necessarily make them right!
  • How people grew up, along with their role within their family, often has a big effect on how you deal with boundaries. If you’re brought up to always focus on the needs of others, it can seem like the norm to always put others first. The main thing is that relationships are reciprocal and that’s a hard balance in some families. If you are in the habit of always putting others first, in the home or at work, there might be surprise or resentment if you stop doing that. People may want to know why you’ve changed and it’s up to you as to how you respond, but honouring your own needs is really important.
  • If someone has a similar communication style to your own, you probably don’t need a direct approach but with people who have a different cultural background or personality, you may need a more direct approach. However, bear in mind that one person’s healthy way of communicating might feel disrespectful to another. Whatever the situation though, it’s alright to have boundaries and make them clear.
  • There are bound to be times when you lapse, but making your own self-care is a priority here. By that I mean, recognising the importance of your own feelings and giving yourself permission to put yourself first sometimes.
  • Finally, establishing boundaries takes time – start with something small that isn’t too threatening and gradually build up to more challenging boundaries. In that way, it won’t feel too overwhelming.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.