Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It’s the festive period, happy holidays and all that. Remember, though, that this time of year is inextricably linked with depression. Oh, you were expecting a happy article? Why did you read a blog with the tagline “rants of a disillusioned artist” then?

While SAD is a medically defined type of depression that requires severe low mood to be treated with a diagnosis; it probably affects most people in temperate climates in the northern hemisphere.

Why? There are three factors to consider. Firstly, there’s less daylight at this time of year and it’s colder. If you work a normal 9-5 job it will be dark when you wake up and dark before you leave work, which is more tiring because it feels as though the whole day has gone by. Even if you don’t work such a job, you will spend more hours awake when it’s dark than when it’s light. Your body can tire more easily as well as it’s spending more energy to keep you warm; a more constant level of physical exhaustion has a negative impact on your mental health.

Secondly, Christmas itself, despite being marketed as jolly, can be a straining time. Loneliness has a huge impact, obviously, especially when TV, film, the media etc espouse a message of Christmas being a time of togetherness and family. But even for people not alone, the period can be stressful. It’s almost become a running gag that Christmas serves as a reminder of why you don’t visit those members of your family at any other time of year. But even if you have a close family, there’s still stress in buying the right presents, organising dinners/parties/etc, travelling. Staying with your family, or having a family member stay who no longer lives with you over the period can be quite strange, as it takes everyone back in time, which can be quite jarring.

Then there’s the third wave, which happens after new year. In the run up to the end of December, the Christmas lights are up, there are parties, there are events, shops/bars/etc have seasonal offers, blockbuster films come out, companies give out bonuses; there is a general feeling of anticipation or excitement, or even just that there’s a goal to work towards. Once New Year’s Eve is out of the way, the Christmas lights go down, making everywhere seem darker; people go out less and parties stop happening so frequently. You have to go back to work or school or college or whatever, but whichever way, fun will cease, and the daily grind recommences.

What do I suggest can be done? If you know someone who may be suffering harder, invite them around, include more people in your plans. If you yourself are suffering, try to talk to people, put yourself in social situations and communicate more. Having company is key; if you’re miserable around your friends, maybe they can help. If you’re miserable on your own, you won’t be able to help yourself. If you like Christmas lights, keep them up. Who cares? Instead of letting the social awkwardness and stress of family build up; use the time to get to know them better, cherish what little time you have.

Also, indulge yourself. For a few weeks, let go of the sensation of being trapped by diet, social convention, money saving, etc. Buy chocolates or that game you’ve wanted to play. Get drunk, play guitar in a jam while getting stoned. Whatever your vice, indulge and enjoy it. Then remember that the days are getting lighter, they will be warmer and you won’t need to worry about this time until it comes around next year…

Happy Christmas!

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