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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Posted: November 19, 2020

It’s been a very tough year for many. As we get closer to Christmas time the festive lights and plans to see family help create an air of optimism again. But for some, this time of year can be a struggle due to Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Taking care of ourselves and loved ones is vital, especially in these COVID-19 times. It’s important to know how we might help a family member, crew member, colleague or friend, who may suffer from SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.


lady looking out window

  • Feeling down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping – either oversleeping or not getting any
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating



winter scene

Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in autumn and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.

Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.

Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.


What can you do to counteract the effects?


Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.

Make your environment sunnier and brighter.

Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.

Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.

man looking out window

Speak with your GP if you have any questions about your mental health or to read more please visit the HSE website here.

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