Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It is also known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more severe during the winter months, when there is less sunlight. However, some people with SAD may experience symptoms during the summer months instead.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it is thought to be related to changes in the amount of sunlight exposure. Sunlight helps to regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in sleep and mood. People with SAD may produce too much melatonin during the winter months, which can lead to symptoms of depression such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and loss of interest in activities.
Other factors that may contribute to SAD include:
- Family history of depression
- Living in a region with less sunlight exposure
- Working indoors
- Having a chronic illness
- Experiencing major life changes
The symptoms of SAD can vary in severity and from person to person. Common symptoms include:
- Feeling low or depressed
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling tired and lacking energy
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite, such as overeating or undereating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Thoughts of suicide
Here are some signs to look out for in your that may mean a colleague is suffering from SAD
- They may seem more withdrawn or irritable than usual
- They may have difficulty meeting deadlines or completing tasks
- They may take more sick days or leave early from work
- They may seem less interested in their work or their colleagues
If you notice any of these changes in your colleague, it is important to reach out to them and offer your support. Let them know that you are there for them and that you are willing to help in any way that you can. As an employer, there are many more things you can do to help an employee who is suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD):
- Be understanding and supportive. Let your employee know that you are aware of SAD and that you are there to help. Encourage them to talk to you about how they are feeling and what you can do to support them.
- Make sure your employee has access to light. If possible, try to arrange their workspace so that they have access to natural light. If this is not possible, you can provide them with a light therapy lamp.
- Encourage your employee to take breaks and get outside. This will help them to get some sunlight and fresh air, both of which can improve mood.
- Be flexible with work hours and deadlines. If your employee is struggling to cope with their SAD, they may need some extra time or support to complete their work.
- Encourage your employee to seek professional help. If their SAD is severe, they may need to see a doctor or therapist for treatment.
- Encourage your employee to take care of themselves. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
- Create a positive and supportive work environment. This can help to improve your employee’s mood and make it easier for them to cope with their SAD.
- Educate yourself about SAD. The more you know about SAD, the better equipped you will be to help your employee.
It is also important to remember that your colleague may not want to discuss his or her personal details or medical conditions with you and they are not legally obliged to do so. When encouraging someone to open up about their mental health, don’t pressurise them; actively listen to the person by giving them your undivided attention. Leave any questions or comments until the person has finished, so you don’t interrupt them. Once someone knows they’re being given the space and time to talk, they’re more likely to open up. SAD is a real medical condition. It is not something that your employee can just “snap out of.” Be patient and understanding, and offer your support in any way that you can.
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