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December is Seasonal Affective Awareness Month, we will be covering signs and symptoms of SAD and include different complementary approaches to ease some of the symptoms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Seasonal Depression
Depression is more than just feeling sad, lacking in motivation or having a low mood. The feelings may become so severe that they interfere with day to day life, affecting the way you think and behave and affect your relationships.
Experiencing the symptoms below on most days over the past month or more suggests you may need to seek profession help:
feeling tired most of the time
sleeping badly - difficulty getting to sleep or waking up early and being unable to go back to sleep
loss of appetite or eating more than usual
weight change over a relatively short time – loss or gain
experiencing physical aches and pains
feeling apathetic and unable to enjoy things you normally enjoy
distancing yourself from people, particularly those close to you
reluctant to engage in usual activities or leave your house
losing confidence in yourself and feeling life is pointless
being self-critical and feeling guilty
unable to concentrate
Depression may be triggered by life circumstances often connected with a sense of loss :- death of a loved one, divorce, a job, a home, independence, good health, or social connections. It may also have no cause. Common treatments include anti-depressant medication, counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy, support groups, meditation and exercise.
SAD is a type of depression that begins in autumn as the days become shorter. Symptoms may include feeling lethargic, craving carbohydrates and 'winter blues' which may be as severe as typical depression.
Herbal Medicine with Michelle Boudin
Ruby Wax made a wonderful poignant statement recently “People with cancer want to live, people with depression want to die”. When faced with a crisis or disappointment in life it is normal to experience mild feelings of depression etc. The first starting point is to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Confide in friends and family, online support groups or find a counselling based therapist.
Herbal support includes:
St John's Wort but avoid if you are taking anti-depressants or other medications.
Ginkgo may be useful in elderly patients.
5-HTP is also a great supplement which increases serotonin levels
For sleep problems: Valerian, Mexican Valerian, Lime Flower, Withania. Rhodiola can help if you are having trouble thinking clearly and also increases melatonin for better sleep and may be good for SAD.
For low energy: Siberian Ginseng, Panax Ginseng
To uplift spirits: Rose, Rosemary, or Lemon Balm tea
For anxiety: Passionflower, Skullcap, Bacopa
For stress: Licorice, Withania, Siberian Ginseng. High dose vitamin B supplement is essential.
A herbalist will blend a formula just for you and your symptoms.
The benefits of exercise should not be under-estimated. Aim to start at15 minutes of brisk walking three days per week with the aim to increase to 30 minutes.
For SAD vitamin-D is a useful supplement. Start using a lightbox in the morning a month before symptoms begin. Lightboxes can be rented from The Healthy House. A basic model will cost £32 to buy. See
Michelle Boudin Herbalist and Naturopath
Reflexology with Julie Grant-Hapeshi
Reflexology works to relieve symptoms of SAD by stimulating specific acupressure points/nerve endings in the feet and hands to help lift mood, balance sleep patterns, and regulated appetite – all of which can be affected by SAD.
A reflexology treatment may:
Increase blood flow to organs:
Eliminate toxin build up in the body;
Stimulate the lymphatic system;
Activate the endocrine system;
Induce a state of relaxation, restoring harmony to both the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems;
Encourage a release of the natural feel-good hormones, endorphins, which have been well-documented by science to reduce the body’s stress response;
Decongest energy pathways, allowing for optimal nervous system functioning.
I would check the colour and feel of the feet to look for imbalances to concentrate on and give a full reflexology treatment – also using precision reflexology techniques where I felt needed in boosting harmony and stimulating healing processes of mind, body and spirit.
Hot Stone Reflexology may be especially appreciated for those suffering with SAD for the warmth of the basal stones and extra healing power of the treatment.
The intention of the treatment would be in balancing serotonin levels with understanding of how and where the body manufactures serotonin – pineal gland (located in the brain), alimentary canal, brain stem, oesophagus, stomach and intestines. Over 95% of serotonin production is found in the digestive system. In this regard I would point to dietary and vitamin supplement advice.
Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapeutic Counselling with Angela Winterton
Now the clocks have gone back, the nights are getting longer, darker and colder. Understandably, this can make many of us feel a little glum. For some however, the change in seasons signals a deeper shift to depression. The cause is unknown; however it is believed that the change in seasons can increase levels of the brain chemical melatonin. Too much production of melatonin makes us feel sleepier, resulting in disrupting our body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. The lack of daylight during the winter months also affects the production of serotonin which is the hormone responsible for maintaining a healthy state of mind. Serotonin helps us feel motivated, enthusiastic, happy and in control of our life and has a big effect on our mood and behaviour.
The saying goes that ‘we are what we eat’ but we also are ‘what we think’. If we constantly think in a negative way we are more likely to have negative experiences, feel anxious, stressed and depressed compared to when we have a more positive outlook. It’s all about perception! The aim of counseling is to allow sufferers to talk over their issues in a safe environment and to help them understand their illness and its triggers. As an integrative psychotherapeutic counsellor, I work with clients to uncover and explore underlying reasons that have contributed to the symptoms of depression, whilst helping them to change feelings and learn to cope more effectively. A wonderful therapy to help especially with SAD is the ‘Walk-Talk’ therapy which is conducted outdoors and is a combination of a physical and cognitive activity programme. Walking gets us moving and propels us forward, both literally and figuratively. Walking releases endorphins – the hormone responsible to make us feel better. The aim of hypnotherapy for SAD or seasonal depression is to reframe perceptions around this time of the year for a more positive and relaxed state of mind and to develop better coping behaviours. Hypnotherapy connects directly with the subconscious; using positive suggestions while in a state of hypnosis will improve self-esteem, lift mood and encourage you to react in a more positive and relaxed way to the shorter days which can greatly alleviate and improve symptoms.
Angela Winterton Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor
Reiki-led release with Louise Salmon
The shortening days of the year affect us all in different ways. Some of us love it, looking forward to the celebrations of the mid-winter festivals, but some of us dread it.
SAD can be debilitating for those who suffer its symptoms, and that time is upon us again.
My understanding is that very often the symptoms we experience on a physical and emotional level can be the result of a metaphysical issue which stems from the past, in some cases the very long distant past, and can even come from ancestral memory.
If you think about it, the winter posed serious problems for our ancestors, bringing long periods of darkness every day and sometimes life-or-death crises. Perhaps it could be deep buried memory of this which brings symptoms of SAD to some of us.
It could equally come from somewhere in this lifetime, perhaps an attachment to some unhappy or disturbing memory from a long ago winter.
Anywhere there is an emotional link to the past, there is something that might perhaps be resolved using Reiki-led release.
This method combines the wonderful calming effects of the Universal energy brought through by Reiki with regression to allow us to discover how that link might be affecting you now.
If we find a metaphysical cause in this way, we can then go on to balance any inner conflict or heal any unresolved emotional issues associated with the SAD, which might in turn reduce or sometimes clear symptoms completely.
Please feel free to call me for a chat.
Louise Salmon Reiki II, Hypnotherapist, Coach, Counsellor
If you would like to find out more about any of the treatments, please contact the therapists direct. You can find contact details by clicking HERE