Disclaimer: This post doesn’t want to give any medical advice. I am merely sharing my experience, and What I do to get through these days/weeks when I am affected by SAD.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? You probably heard about people feeling low when Winter comes, usually feeling quite low and lethargic. These are just some of the symptoms of this peculiar illness, that doesn’t affect many people, but still, it is taken into consideration by the medical profession and the health services. It is estimated that 3 out of 100 people in the U.K. suffers from SAD, while it is six per cent of the U.S.A. population. The idea is that coming Winter, there is less exposition to the sunlight and this affects your mood and metabolism. However, this can potentially happen at the change of any season.
The SAD that affects me is mostly of physical nature, but you’ll read that this can heavily affect mental health.
As I was telling you in this post, this is something that affects me, but in the opposite way. When Spring arrives, when Nature is reborn and birds are chirping and the trees are in blossom, that’s when I feel at my lowest: my energy level drops drastically, my ability to focus falters, I get gastrointestinal problems, etc. This has been happening for years: I have always felt low mood as soon as the warm weather arrives and much less energetic compared to Autumn or Winter. I have been reflecting on this and I think this goes back to my childhood when I was being bullied for having a big bottom (90s child, the time when fashion icons were skinny, with pop idols of the time having a more androgynous look): it was easier to cover in Winter but less so in Spring and Summer, creating even more uncomfortability (it didn’t help that even my family were all commenting that I should have lost some weight – but let me be clear: I wasn’t obese, probably slightly overweight and a bit weirdly shaped as my stomach was flat, like a table): obviously, I wasn’t happy to go to the beach and wearing bathing suits.
It might be that, or it might just be that I don’t agree with a warm climate (hence I moved from a Mediterranean country to the U.K.): who knows.
I have accepted this thing, I know it comes every year, I know that I can do less than what I would do in Autumn and Winter. Also, this disorder brings gastrointestinal issues: one year it was so bad that I lost 20 pounds in one month because I couldn’t eat much otherwise I would suffer from stomach cramps for the following hour (I am talking about those cramps where you have to lie-down, folded in half, without being able to move because the pain is that much). One of the few foods that I could eat was plain white bread because it soothed the stomach, a bit of oily pasta and sauteed veggies. It wasn’t fun. Some people say that it’s just stress and these are the signs of a near-burnout. But I know when I am stressed, yes my stomach might have some issues, but this is different: what I feel during these weeks is unlike the state of mind and body that I experience when I am working too much, say, in October, or when I have too many things going on (personal and work-related).
I learned to accept that my organism and that my body reacts to the seasons in different ways. I know that I have to go easy on myself when I feel like this, that I have to reduce overly complicated foods, go easy on the work that I can take as well as the physical exercise that I can do. Integrating more wholesome ingredients and habits is key to successfully survive the next few weeks for me. This year I felt it a bit more than usual: persistent brain fog and I don’t have that much stamina (at the beginning of March for three days I could barely making it from the bed to the sofa in order to work and then feed the cat – most important task). While I decided to implement some changes in my habits to see if they can help with this year’s symptoms (started jogging – twice a week for 15 minutes -, being more persistent with daily exercises – every day for 20-30 minutes, plus the same amount of time for yoga -), I found that I was feeling well in the morning but having a drastic drop of energy in the afternoon. So at the moment, I am at the end of a week of only yoga and I am feeling a bit better. I’ll go back to my usual rhythm in the next weeks.
As I am already working a 9-5 job, finding the mental strength to dedicate to the blog, at this time is a bit challenging, and that’s why I am posting a bit less and mostly at the weekend (be patient with me, pleeaase!).
Oily pasta is still a must during this time, but I integrate with some pulses (mostly white beans, sauteed, and veggies like spinach ad kale). A great aid is fennel: raw with some olive oil, or boiled, is great to soothe gastritis. You can also drink the water after you boiled it as a warm beverage to calm the gastrointestinal tract.
As well as pasta, I can easily eat plain white bread: unfortunately, the bread that I find at the supermarket is always full of extra useless ingredients, so I decided to make a batch of bread once a week, freeze some of it so that I can take it out when I am unable to bake some fresh bread. Really any recipe that doesn’t require too much effort in the making of the dough, is perfect during this period. Also, when you start making your own bread it will be difficult to go back to the store-bought one. There are so many recipes around, you just need to try them and see which one gives you the best result and munch on it! I’ll leave you some recipes below.
Sympotms of SAD
From the NHS website we can read that the sympoms can include:
- a persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
At some point, when I was still finding about this disorder, I went to the GP: they sent me for abdomen ultrasounds, a colonoscopy and many blood tests, to find out that was all regular. So, they prescribed both Maalox and Diazepam: I can tell you that while they were not useful at all, the second at least was kind of fun to take for a little bit.
Now I much prefer to see what my body needs, how it reacts and respect it. Sounds a bit hippie? Well, I don’t care, I don’t want to take drugs when I can fix the problem with tuning in with myself, especially since my symptoms are not in the extreme of the SAD spectrum.
I hope this gave you a better idea of the Seasonal Affective Disorder, and maybe now that you know something about it and you have always been wondering why you are feeling a bit low come the change of season, you might understand that you have SAD but more importantly, you are not alone.
Sending love and support to you all!
Here some brad recipes:
No-Knead Bread from the New York Times – Cooking
Homemade Artisan Bread by Sally’s Baking Addiction
2 thoughts on “My Experience With Seasonal Affective Disorder”
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