The impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder at work

Mindletic

4 min read

Winter mountains image, impact of seasonal affective disorder at work. Mindletic blog.
Winter mountains image, impact of seasonal affective disorder at work. Mindletic blog.

During the winter months, it is essential for employees to take care of their mental health to maintain overall well-being. Our anonymously gathered data reveals 8% of Mindletic users have felt Loneliness in the past six months. This percentage rises during autumn and winter months to 10%, when we spend more time indoors and probably socialize or see people less. Low energy, difficulties concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and feelings of sadness or hopelessness may indicate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, typically starting in the fall and continuing through the winter months. The medical term SAD was first described in 1984 by the psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal as a “syndrome characterized by recurrent depressions that occur annually at the same time each year.”

SAD is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including reduced exposure to natural light, changes in brain chemistry (hormones serotonin and melatonin, vitamin D levels), and the effects of the winter season on our body's internal clock (also known as the circadian rhythm).

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include low energy, tiredness, irritability, difficulties concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy, less motivation, and feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Some people also experience changes in their weight, overall mood, and social withdrawal.

The symptoms are similar to those of depression experienced during autumn and winter, with a noticeable improvement towards spring. They are mild at first but gradually worsen throughout winter as the sunlight diminishes and the days become shorter. The symptoms and severity of SAD will differ from person to person.

How can it affect work and personal life?

The seasonal affective disorder can affect people in a variety of ways. Living with SAD can be difficult, as you may feel the symptoms for a prolonged time, which might impact various areas of a person's life, including family, work, and relationships.

SAD can affect work life in a number of ways:

// Decreased productivity: SAD can cause feelings of lethargy, lack of motivation, and difficulties concentrating and making decisions, which can impact daily functioning and lead to decreased productivity at work.

// Absences: SAD can cause individuals to take more sick days or to be absent from work more frequently.

// Decreased quality of work: SAD can also affect the quality of work, as individuals may have difficulty focusing and completing tasks to the best of their ability.

// Interpersonal difficulties: SAD can also lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships at work, as individuals may have problems communicating and interacting with colleagues.

SAD can also impact personal and family life, including:

// Communication difficulties: SAD can cause individuals to struggle while communicating with their loved ones, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.

// Decreased energy and motivation: SAD can cause individuals to feel lethargic and have lower energy levels, making it difficult to engage in activities they usually enjoy.

// Decreased interest in social activities or social isolation: SAD can cause a lack of interest in social activities, leading to a withdrawal from social interactions and a desire to isolate oneself.

// Changes in mood and behavior: SAD can cause changes in mood and behavior, such as irritability, sadness, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns, leading to weight gain or weight loss and difficulty sleeping, which can be difficult for loved ones to understand and manage.

// Negative thoughts and feelings: SAD can also cause negative thoughts and feelings, such as sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, which can affect personal relationships and overall well-being.

Is SAD the ‘Winter Blues’?

There are numerous misconceptions about SAD. Sometimes it can be dismissively referred to as the ‘winter blues’. It is important to recognize that SAD can affect a person’s life as much as any other type of depression. Other references, such as ‘winter blues’ diminishes the impact a person may experience when living with the condition.

Can you get SAD at stressful times of the year?

The SAD pattern repeats according to the seasons. Some people can become depressed at other times of the year that are difficult for them. It could be because of a bereavement anniversary, Christmas, or other reasons.

Here are some tips that can help you support yourself or someone else who might be experiencing SAD:

Professional help: For someone experiencing SAD, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Make an appointment with the doctor, talk to a mental health professional or consider joining a support group for people with SAD. It can be helpful to talk to others who are going through similar experiences.

Engage in regular exercise: Exercise can help improve your mood and increase energy levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, on most days of the week.

Get outside: Even if it is just for a few minutes, getting outside and exposing yourself to natural light can be helpful for those with SAD.

Maintain a healthy routine: Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and follow a consistent daily routine.Stay connected: Stay in touch with friends and loved ones and participate in social activities.

Engage in self-care activities: Take time for yourself and engage in activities that can improve your mood. E. g. relaxation techniques, meditation, massages, or other stress-reducing activities (check Reflect and Practice sections in the Mindletic app).

Emotional support: Show empathy and gentleness towards yourself or the person experiencing SAD. Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions and practice the tips above or encourage the other person to do it.

Remember that every person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to be patient and understanding toward yourself and others. Taking care of your mental health and seeking treatment can help you manage your SAD and improve your overall well-being.

References:

1. American Psychology Association. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Holiday stress.

2. Coping with the stress of the holidays.

3. CBS. Aimee Picchi. Who's really working as the holidays approach?

Want to learn more about managing stress and emotions for better well-being? Reach out to our team and get a free consultation now.