Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is more than just a simple case of the winter blues. It’s a clinical disorder that’s characterised by feelings of depression, sluggishness, weight gain and lethargy. Yikes. While we’re spoilt with a very mild winter in Australia, it (SAD-ly) doesn’t mean that SAD can’t touch us. But why? Why do our hormones hate winter so much?
Well, the science speaks for itself. Your thyroid, sex and adrenal hormones have all been shown to be significantly affected by shorter days, longer nights, colder temperatures and bleaker weather.
This study concluded that shorter days create increased levels of both melatonin and DHEA, alongside making some physical changes to the adrenal glands. This inevitably has a negative impact on your body’s stress response system, which in turn impacts your mood. Add into the mix the hormonal fluctuations which come about thanks to the surge in DHEA, plus the feelings of fatigue which come from increased melatonin and you’ve got a recipe for feeling as flat as a pancake. Fun times, eh?
Oh, and while we’re focusing on the negative, we should probs let you know that your thyroid tends to suffer during winter. There’s been a slew of studies that have shown that TSH and iodine, both of which are essential for healthy thyroid function, are adversely affected during cold, blue, wintery AF weather.
But! All is not lost. Here’s what you can do to minimise the impact of hormonal fluctuations:
Yes, even if it’s cold. You need as much fresh air as you can get if you’re feeling SAD, and that includes vitamin D. If it’s super grey and your vit-D levels are dropping, consider supplements. Your winter-wrought body will thank you.
Warm up your mood with some blue light therapy. That’s right, blue for the blues. This is the most common way to treat SAD, and it involves exposure to specific wavelengths of light for a prescribed amount of time each day.
Light therapy is used because the amount of light reaching your eyeball from interior lighting is far less than the amount from the real thing. So, unless you spend pretty much your entire day outside during winter (and let’s face it, who’s got time for that?) you are relying on electric light. Light therapy is the best way of boosting your light exposure during winter, which has been proven to lessen symptoms of SAD.
Because they’ll do exactly what they say on the tin; adapt to what your body needs. Ashwagandha and rhodiola both work wonders for a stressed, frazzled nervous systems and have been shown to positively impact adrenal health.
As with pretty much every health disorder or complaint, there’s an essential oil that can help reduce symptoms. For a mood boost, try diffusing lavender, bergamot or lemon oil. To positively impact serotonin and dopamine levels to combat depression, give clary sage, cedar wood or eucalyptus a whirl.
Lastly, remember that spring is just a season away…