Autumn is now upon us and winter is drawing close. There are lots of enjoyable things about this time of year like crisp mornings, golden leaves on the trees, Strictly Come Dancing, Bonfire Night displays, big nights in, pumpkin spiced lattes and woolly jumpers to name a few. But the shifting of the seasons doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs around the same time every year as the days become shorter and colder. It is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight that in turns affects melatonin and serotonin production.
Around 29% of adults may have mild symptoms of the ‘winter blues’ with between 3 and 8 out of 100 people experiencing a more acute reaction[1, 2]. Women can be up to four times more likely to suffer from SAD than men.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms that occur with SAD are simar to other types of depression and may include but aren’t limited to:
- Losing interest in usual activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy levels
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Sleeping more than usual
- Eating more than usual
- Feeling less sociable or more anxious
Employees may let you know how they’re feeling or you might spot the signs yourself around the time of autumn descending.
How can I support my employees?
A culture of openness
One of the first things employers can do is create a culture where employees feel they can be open and honest with their managers about their mental health. Mental health illnesses need to be discussed with sensitivity and it is important for employees to know that they’ll be supported rather than judged in such a situation.
Employers can also help those in their team suffering with SAD to get as much daylight as possible. This could be through arranging a flexible working pattern that means they see more of the natural daylight during working hours (walks at lunch breaks, starting or leaving slightly earlier during daylight hours etc.). Seating employees with SAD next to windows may also help to ease symptoms.
EAPs and other benefits could help
Certain Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) may offer benefits that can support those living with SAD, such as access to a round-the-clock GP or specialised mental health services. If you already offer an EAP as part of your employee benefits package, it may be worth giving a refresher on it around this time of year so that your staff understand how to get the best out of it.