SAD is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and the symptoms often present themselves in people during the winter months. The condition can lower a person’s mood, making them irritable, depressed, lazier and sleeping longer. The condition is linked to humans receiving less sunlight in winter and is common in Northern hemisphere countries such as England, America, Canada and the Nordic countries. ADHD is a neurodivergent condition that impacts people’s behaviour and emotions too, a person can be hyperactive and impulsive, inattentive or both.
Both these disorders when untreated or undiagnosed can impact a human’s body more severely. They can overlap and can increase depressive symptoms as hyperactive and impulsive people with ADHD may struggle to stay indoors and inattentive people with ADHD may get so used to staying indoors they may not emerge.
I was diagnosed with ADHD a year ago and have managed to improve my life by building a toolkit that can be applied by both people with and without ADHD.
1. Get your good hormones fixed up
Increase your sunlight hours as much as possible and improve your serotonin levels, whether it’s walking to work in the morning or getting out at lunch. Break up your days as it’ll get dark earlier and it can become a problem staying indoors for days without noticing. The long dark hours may produce higher levels of melatonin which makes us feel sleepy and tired. This needs to be rebalanced.
2. Exercise and rest
Both of these are essential. During the spring and summer we can overuse and exhaust our bodies. They build our bodies up full of energy. However, autumn and winter slow our body into rest mode. Keeping mobile will help you keep fit and healthy. I personally started freestyle wrestling as a hobby last November and have stuck it out. This helped me develop further confidence in myself, increase strength, reduce some of my impulsive symptoms, and improve my mood. During winter we can pack on pounds, keeping fit helps you to control this but also gets your endorphins and happy hormones pumping too.
3. Take your vitamins
When you have ADHD and it’s winter, you may find that you need to take more breaks during the day to allow yourself to get outside and get your Vitamin D fix, or make more frequent visits to the health food store to stock up on all kinds of supplements to help with your mood and energy levels. Vitamin D, K, calcium, zinc, omega 3, magnesium, Iron, ginseng and ashwagandha are known to help regulate the body and mind, and reduce levels of stress. Make sure you consult your GP for a health check and seek advice on which vitamins and quantities you should be taking accordingly.
4. Light therapy
Light lamps are also known to help people with SAD. These mimic sunlight and can help reset your body clock. That’s because SAD is more than just a lack of Vitamin D in winter, it’s actually a misalignment in your circadian rhythm. The solution to this is super easy, and you might be surprised that it doesn’t involve any medication: simply mimicking the sun’s light by using light therapy lights. A type of light therapy that uses full spectrum lights has been scientifically proven to effectively treat seasonal affective disorder symptoms. It’s often recommended as part of a treatment plan for depression, as well as anxiety disorders and insomnia.
Connect with family, friends and the community and have hot drinks and soups during the festive season. You can do this by having regular social events during which you can strengthen connections while providing a sense of structure (for example, monthly board game night). If you’re feeling particularly down, reach out to friends and family members and ask them for help and support—there’s no shame in admitting that life feels overwhelming sometimes.
The winter can bring people’s emotions out more when families are at home and some can feel more isolated. Therapy can help you identify why your low moods occur and what you can do about them. Get in touch with 111 or a counsellor if you feel you need mental health support.
It may seem that handling depression in winter with ADHD is difficult as it’s a double whammy. The combination of the two can be a challenge, but there are ways to help manage it. This pattern can be broken by going outdoors, spending time in the fresh air, soaking up that dose of Vitamin D and getting closer to nature. By keeping active as much as possible, in a fun way if possible, you’re boosting your own natural chemicals and supplies that will counter everything I spoke about above. It’s not easy, but positive and lasting change can be made.