What it’s like to have S.A.D…. – by Michelle Hudecki

Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. as it is commonly referred to is a type of depression that is related to the changing of the seasons — S.A.D. begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you’re like most people with S.A.D., your symptoms start in the beginning of winter (when the days are the shortest) and continue into the winter months – usually the lowest point is around mid- February, zapping your energy and making you feel a variety of mixed emotions.

S.A.D. is a real condition and effects 4-6% of the population (4 out of 5 people effected are women). S.A.D. shows up the same way depression shows up in a person.  While the exact cause of S.A.D. is unknown, researchers believe the condition may be related to the body’s internal clock, which regulates temperature and hormone production. Nerve centres in our brain control our daily moods and rhythms and are stimulated by the amount of light that enters our eyes. The reduction of sunlight in the winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood and behaviour) and melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood). S.A.D leaves you with all the same symptoms as someone who is clinically depressed leaving you with feelings of loneliness, sadness, emptiness, unhappiness, loss of interest in things you love, over-sleeping… and the list goes on.

Depression can mask itself in the ugliest forms imaginable, some misunderstood symptoms include: anger, irritability, impatience, sleep problems, anxiety, crying spells- sometimes over nothing at all, inability to concentrate, random physical aches and pains, substance abuse, appetite change and isolation.

When faced with these symptoms – if you do not know how to handle how you are feeling, you may be suffering from this or a similar condition. Speak with your doctor or a therapist. Getting help is so important! Never be afraid to talk to your friends, family, doctor or therapist! Remember you are so loved!  

Since I have suffered with this debilitating condition for over 10 years I can tell you some things that have helped me in this dark time to lighten my mood and if you can relate to these symptoms I hope this helps you too!

BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE: When you are faced with that crippling, can’t get out of bed anxiety, and negative thoughts keeping you down, THIS is what you need. Yet THIS is the hardest thing on the planet to do. Set yourself up for success the night before. Pick a time, pick a class, sign up online (this can help with accountability!) Put whatever you need by the door ie. change of clothes, yoga mat, water bottle, snacks… Set your alarm and DO IT! There has never been a time I’ve had a regret about getting to a yoga class, spin class, or making it to the gym! Exercise increases your levels of serotonin! I promise you won’t regret this one and that is why it is MY NUMBER ONE RULE of S.A.D.

STAY SOCIAL : This can be another challenge when we are caught so low in the “winter blues”. This can be especially tough when the weather is bad and we’re advised not to drive or we end up working from home (which is awesome!!! -but can be very isolating). Spend time with supportive family and friends! Don’t be afraid to share your feelings! Let the ones you love know how you are feeling. The ones you share this with will be there for you, to listen to you, until you feel heard! To hug and squeeze you, until you smile. This is a BIG one – when you hug someone – like really squeeze someone for about 20 seconds or more (cuddling too!) Oxytocin is released. Known as the “love hormone” when it is released it is said to strengthen empathy, trust, your sexual desires and helps to strengthen your relationship. Oxytocin also helps as a treatment for depression, anxiety, intestinal (digestive) issues and a lack of sexual desire. If you know someone is down let that hug last a little longer, a little tighter. Get that Oxytocin flowing!

TAKE A VACATION AND IF YOU CAN’T TAKE A VACATION STICK TO A SCHEDULE: This might not always be feasible because of work, children, life, money or whatever your circumstance might be in. Travelling is soul food. It heals you on a whole new level. It gets you to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown, maybe you don’t know the language, maybe you get lost, maybe someone helps you along the way – you get to see life from a different perspective. You get to meet new people, understand new cultures and if you forgot to appreciate the life you have back at home 9 out of 10 times you will realize how lucky you are and how much you having been taking your life or people in your life for granted. Vacation time is sometimes not achievable due to the busyness of life – if that is the case try to schedule time for you. Book a massage, schedule a float, give yourself a manicure, a facial, a pedicure. Listen to a guided meditation. Try to follow a schedule and/or a routine. Go to bed at the same time each night. As “boring” or mundane as this might sound, getting into a daily routine can be very healthy and great for your well-being.


NEGATIVE SELF TALK: A lot of mental and emotional suffering can come from the way we talk about ourselves. It is scientifically proven people who talk negatively about themselves are under higher stress, have trouble getting into routines and can often be overweight. All of those cant’s, wont’s, don’ts shouldn’t, couldn’ts… can really eat away at our self-esteem. When our self-esteem is low we can have trouble making decisions. If our thoughts determine how we feel, our feelings often become our stories, and our stories become our truths. When we keep telling ourselves negative stories we start to believe them and they become our reality. However, when our stories are about how amazing we are, how lucky we are or how awesome our lives are…. THAT becomes the story. THAT becomes your reality! Start your day by telling yourself 3 things you love about you!

ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Alcohol and substances are temporary “fixes”. At the time we feel good, but alcohol is a depressant. When you start to come down you will often become lower or bluer than when you started. Drinking too much is harmful to your cognitive function, your memory and can also lead to depression. When you drink too much you are more likely to act on an impulse and make bad decisions. Alcohol and substances can lead you further down the rabbit hole into depression.

LET GO OF OLD PATTERNS AND TOXIC BEHAVIOUR: Sometimes it is easy to stay in the same stagnant patterns. Sometimes we get used to eating poorly – greasy, fatty foods or drinking too much… These patterns can have a negative effect on our bodies, our self-esteem, our well-being and how we view ourselves and the world around us. It takes 30 days to create a habit. If you want to try to introduce something new into your life… start small. Maybe eating a vegetable at every meal or cutting soda or super refined sugars from your diet. Once you are able to stick with these small changes for 30 days you will notice how much easier it becomes to add on healthier habits! Start small and tell yourself – “Yes, you can!”

We are all going through something in our lives, we are all at different stages. Be kind to everyone you meet, because everyone is fighting their own battle and has their own unique story. When you can live with compassion, you can learn to drop judgment and realize we are all just skin, bones and souls. 

Michelle Hudecki
245 h RYT Hatha-Vinyasa-Yin