The winter of 2013/14 was a particularly brutal winter here in Montreal. The cold weather started earlier than usual and went on and on. It seemed to be a never ending winter. That year, I had an unprecedented amount of clients suffering with depression. I had already had a sneaky suspicion that adults with ADHD were more prone to get SAD than the non-ADHD population, and a little research backed up my hunch.
You are more likely to experience SAD if you have ADHD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a form of depression. It is triggered by the reduction of sunlight and colder temperatures that come with the change of seasons. These environmental changes spark a change in your circadian rhythm.
When it’s dark, the sleep related hormone, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin can also cause depressive symptoms. With the shorter days and longer nights of winter, more melatonin is produced.
If you have SAD, there are things you can do to help. The bonus is that many of them help with your ADHD too!
1.Take Omega 3 Supplements
Ok, now you probably think I am obsessed with these! but omega 3 helps keep good levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Not only do those neurotransmitters help you to focus, concentrate, increase your memory, etc., they also keep you feeling happy and depression symptoms at bay.
2. Take a Vitamin D Supplement
There is a connection between low vitamin D levels and ADHD as well as low levels of vitamin D and SAD. You can get your Vitamin D levels checked with your doctor.
3. Get a Light Box
Using a light box every day for 30 minutes is very helpful as the light curbs the release of melatonin. Do a quick google search to find a supplier in your area. Don’t wait until you start to feel depressed to use it. Start as soon as the evenings start to lengthen in the early fall.
Stress and anxiety both make depression worse. The good news is that exercise helps reduce both! Exercise also helps your ADHD, so even if you don’t feel like moving, you will feel so much better afterwards.
5. Go Outdoors
Even though it’s cold, still go outside (without your shades) for 10 minutes or more a day. The daylight helps regulate your circadian rhythm and increase your serotonin and dopamine levels. You could even combine your exercise time with outdoors time.
6. Eat a Clean Diet
One of the symptoms of SAD is eating more starches and sugar than usually. It is a way to self-medicate. When you eat carbs, you get an increase in dopamine and you feel better. However, the feeling good is short lived and can often lead to weight gain and fatigue; which makes you feel worse. Instead, eat a clean, healthy ADHD-friendly diet with a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein.
Depression plays havoc on your sleep cycle. You can find yourself barely sleeping or sleeping way too much. However the suggestions will help.
8. See a Therapist
Talk therapy is always a great way to proactively manage your stress and anxiety. To find a therapist in your area, visit: http://therapists.
9. Anti-Depressant Medications
Visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms with them. Anti-depressants might be part of your treatment plan. The Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) group are known to be especially effective for SAD.
10. Don’t drink
Drinking alcohol can feel good in the moment, but like eating starch and sugar, the good feelings are only temporary. Also, hangovers from drinking increases anxiety and depression.
Do you have SAD? What have you found helpful? leave a note in the comments so other readers can try it too!
Huh, I didn’t really put two and two together but my mom and I both suffer from SAD and we both have ADHD (I am confirmed ADHD but my mom’s is highly suspected!) I do find that Omegas and Vit D are super helpful and since my office was moved to a sunny location I don’t need my lamp as often but I still find the sugar craving ramping up big time and my anxiety gets a bit worse too in the Fall. It’s funny…I also have recently realized the effect that exercise has on my ADHD(my “H” is all in my head). If I have a sedentary day my mind races more at night and I have a really crappy sleep which of course sets me up for a rough next day trying to manage my monkey brain. I love it when an intervention for one condition also has a ripple effect on others! Thanks for the great tips!
Hi Melissa! High fives for a sunny office location, that makes so much difference. And great job with all the other awesome things you are doing for ADHD and SAD!
What is a light box?
Great question! A light box is a type of lamp that produces light that sort of mimics natural light. This is a different light to the artificial light from regular indoor lighting. You can sit by your light box for about 30 minutes a day for it to be affective.
Every time I read these it’s another piece to the puzzle – thank you!
Excellant Karen! So happy.
Just hearing about SAD for the first time, though have experienced such symptoms before in our part of the world in Nigeria. Now we are entering harmattan season and the weather is fast changing. Even recently, I started experiencing some difficulty sleeping even yester night. Thank you for all the prescription you outlined. After the learning process, the next thing is to put it in practice
Please,I would sure like the recipe for chocolate pecan pie for desert.
Thank you so much.
Hi Alex, thanks for your comment. Leave a message again in a week and let us know how you get on.
I will email you the recipe!
For me, the best thing ever, hands down, was taking up skiing. It was a survival skill to get me through the winter, but now I am looking forward to winter, almost.
That is an AMAZING solution Hele!! What a positive thing to do.
Fascinating stuff (as always!) I think, though, that I actually get reverse sad? I get VERY anxious and quite sad during the summer… it’s a real problem. I long for dark, cool spaces… my ADHD is definitely worst in the hot and dry months. Not fun! A good rainstorm, though, and I can think well. In summer it’s almost like I need to become nocturnal to think well.
Hi Laura! yes you can get SAD in the summer. Here is a article about it that explains more https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-babble/201501/reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-in-the-summer