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Navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Written by Scene Magazine

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depressive disorder which can be defined as a complex mental health condition that follows a seasonal pattern. It poses a unique set of challenges for individuals who stay in countries like Australia, where the climate varies significantly across regions. 

This blog aims to shed light on the various attributes of SAD. We will offer some valuable insights about the same and present evidence-based strategies for managing this seasonal mental health condition.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder 

Because we rely on the sun for vitamin D - which is essential for proper serotonin production in the body, individuals affected by SAD may experience heightened symptoms when the sunlight diminishes during the cooler months. While Australia experiences milder winters compared to some northern hemisphere countries, the days do become significantly shorter than they are in summer, meaning the impact of seasonality on mental health is still evident here. Those with the condition will likely experience changes in their mood, energy levels and overall well-being while some may encounter a heightened sense of depression or hopelessness. 

However, there are many ways to manage SAD and if you believe that you’re dealing with a disorder like this, you should contact a clinic and arrange to see an in-person or online doctor to discuss the issue.

Recognising symptoms and seeking professional help

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) include persistent low mood, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. If these symptoms impact daily life, seeking professional help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, is crucial. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments, such as light therapy, psychotherapy, or medication if necessary. If you’re caring for someone who is struggling with a condition like this, you may also benefit from speaking to a professional. They can offer you advice on minding yourself and help you to obtain a carer’s leave certificate if you need to take some time off work. 

Many people will experience feelings of depression and anxiety in their life but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a disorder like SAD. So, if you’re experiencing the signs outlined above, try and take note of when they come over you; record what time of day and during what months you experience the issues. After some time, you may be able to identify a pattern.

Recognising cultural and regional factors that may influence the expression of SAD symptoms is vital for healthcare professionals when assessing and diagnosing this condition. This is because different cultures have different attitudes toward mental health, unique coping mechanisms, and varied social support structures. Healthcare professionals must tailor their approach to diagnosis and treatment accordingly.

Seeking assistance from Australian healthcare professionals, such as GPs, psychologists, or psychiatrists, is crucial for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans. Telehealth services and online doctors provide accessibility, especially in remote areas.

Treatment approaches 

Recognising the cyclic nature of its symptoms, the following treatment approaches aim to alleviate the emotional and physical toll that SAD takes on individuals. By tailoring these interventions to the individual's needs, a higher efficacy of the treatment can be achieved.

1. Light Therapy:

Utilising natural sunlight remains a primary treatment approach. You can benefit from spending time outdoors during daylight hours and engaging in activities like morning walks or exercise to enhance exposure to natural light.

2. Vitamin D Considerations: 

Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is integral for managing SAD. Healthcare professionals may assess and advise on supplementation if necessary, as vitamin D deficiency can contribute to mood disorders.

3. Online Consultation:

Online doctor consultation services offer an accessible avenue for individuals to connect with healthcare professionals to seek mental health support.

Cultural and lifestyle strategies

There are also a number of lifestyle strategies and changes that you can implement to help navigate Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

A strong sense of community can always be leveraged for mental health support. Encouraging community engagement and social activities, even in smaller regional settings, can provide valuable social connections to share low feelings and alleviate symptoms.

Encouraging outdoor hobbies like gardening, bushwalking, or participating in outdoor sports can be helpful as you will have access to more sunshine and vitamin D. Plus, your body will release endorphins as you exercise, which positively impact mood.

Think about stress, work and non-work related. If you’re under pressure at work, you should try and manage it by drawing clear work-life balance boundaries and speaking to your employer about your needs. 

Employers can play a crucial role in supporting staff dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in a number of ways. You may be able to create a flexible work arrangement that includes adjusted working hours to align with daylight exposure, or even moving to a well-lit workspace.

In conclusion, navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder involves a thorough understanding of regional and cultural factors. By embracing a holistic approach that considers sunlight exposure, regional variations, and cultural sensitivities, individuals and healthcare professionals can work collaboratively to manage and mitigate the impact of SAD.