Seasonal depression

When people think of autumn and winter often the first thing that comes to mind is hot chocolate, falling leaves and cinnamon.

For those who live with mental health disorders this time of year can be particularly difficult for various reasons.

There are a lot of things that may affect your mood, however, there is evidence to suggest that during autumn and winter people often struggle a lot more with depression. This can often be known as seasonal affective disorder. For similar reasons people who live with bipolar disorder can often be affected or even triggered by the changing of seasons.

Part of the reason that mood can be significantly affected during autumn and winter is due to daylight savings, where the clocks get put back. The clocks getting turned back can effect the circadian rhythm (Inner clock controlled by hormones); our circadian rhythm can be affected by many external sources including light, this can result in a change in our sleeping patterns.

Sleep and bipolar

As many people who live with bipolar disorder know, changes in sleep routine can be a trigger for changes in mood. For those who live with major depressive disorder changes in sleep can cause a depressive episode, however, living with bipolar disorder adds the possibility of it causing a manic episode.

Furthermore, the changes in light and weather can cause us to spend less time out side which can be something that can be detrimental to mood regulation and can increase feelings of fatigue. Often these changes can affect our routines, this can be particularly difficult for people who live with bipolar disorder as often a routine can help us to feel more in control. In order to try and combat this I often try and maintain the same routine despite the differences around me. This can include keeping meal times, times I get up and go to bed and daily exercises in order to have a smoother transition throughout the different seasons.

There are also some amazing things about autumn and winter, in my experience I have used these things in order to help me manage the more difficult parts of the season. Trying to enjoy fresh walks with the beautiful scenery, looking forward to the seasonal holidays and spending more time with people around me.

Something to consider however, is that we can put a lot of expectation on ourselves to enjoy the various events that occur between October and December. There are many events, such as firework nights that people who live with mental health disorders can find particularly difficult. In previous years I have attended firework events in order to please people around me and then can find myself triggered. It is important to remember to take care of yourself during this time, it is okay to need to be a little selfish if it is what you need in order to feel safe.

Despite the things that I find difficult about autumn and winter, it is also my favourite time of year. There are always things that people who live with bipolar disorder may find more difficult than other people. Even just by being aware of the things that may be triggering it can help us to be able to handle these things. I make sure that I look after myself and check in with people around me, but I also try and enjoy the positives.