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How I Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

November 19, 2018
Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s dreary. If winter was a person it would be Melania Trump.

I don’t feel like doing much. Which is kind of unfortunate because November and December are two of the busiest months of the year for magicians. But nonetheless, I find myself lethargic and particularly unwilling to get out of bed, much less focussed on work and more willing than usual to submit completely to the glowing warming glowing warming glow of television and endlessly binge watch 30 Rock.

And then all of a sudden my thoughts spiral out of control into an uncharacteristically negative place. To make it worse, I cannot sleep and for the first time since I started making a serious effort with diet and exercise, I’ve been craving cake and biscuits.

What on Earth is wrong with me? I have reluctantly had to accept that I could be seasonally affected.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

I would have said it’s a posh name for “winter blues”, but if you read Wikipedia it really sounds like a bit of a complex.

SAD is a complex depressive illness. It is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of hormones (serotonin and melatonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite – our circadian rhythms.

Symptoms of SAD are wide-ranging and can include lack of energy, concentration problems, anxiety, overeating, loss of libido, social and relationship problems, sudden mood changes and even depression.

As such, it is best to think of SAD as a spectrum. On one end of the scale, some people are not at all affected by seasonal changes. Further along, those experiencing “winter blues” might find themselves feeling tired, grumpy and a bit down.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, some people may have to take time off work and drastically limit their daily routines.

Now, to me, a man with worlds to conquer, that all sounds just a little… inconvenient.

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So what do we do?

Treatments For Seasonal Affective Disorder

But do not despair. There are a number of options.

Natural Light

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends sufferers should get as much exposure to natural light as possible. But therein lies the rub. There isn’t a vast amount  of natural light in England during the winter months and jetting off to the South of France just isn’t practical for most people. So what’s plan B?

Light Box Therapy

You expose yourself to unnatural light instead. You can actually buy a light therapy lamp to help with the problem. This is a really bright light that you just leave on for a few hours every day.

Music

I couldn’t find this mentioned in any official scientific literature but I’ve always found music helps to lift my mood. Too bad it’s not especially helpful to concentration when I’m trying to work. But at the right times, music can definitely help. So fire up the Dre Beats and a bit of Blink 182! (Or whatever floats your particular boat).

Vitamin D Supplements

Despite my medical background and years of working as a pharmacist, I’m always fairly reluctant to recommend chemical treatments for psychological problems. However, given that SAD seems to have a physiological basis rather than a psychological one, there may be grounds here. Vitamin D, which you get naturally from sunlight, can now be taken as a supplement.

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