3 Ways Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Damage Your Mental Health

So winter is here, and suddenly everything is dark, cold, damp and downright depressing.

You wonder how your carefree summer involving endless warm nights drinking on city rooftops, frolicking on beaches until the early hours, dancing away at music festivals and drunkenly stumbling around at your best friend's house party at 4 am seems so far away.

Why are you so miserable all of a sudden? Why do you feel like a former, sluggish version of yourself?

It could be a case of the "winter blues" or clinically known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder is a recognized problem, and it's real.

According to Mental Health America, the main sufferers are between 18 and 30 years old, and women are the most commonly affected at 75 percent.

I personally fall into that 75 percent statistic.

I grew up in Australia for the first two years of my life, spending my early childhood basking in sunshine.

I'm adamant this is where my love affair with sunbathing and being in hot weather began.

Ever since I was a little, I have loved the sun on my skin, and it's only intensified as I've grown older.

Cut to the beginning of my 20s, when I really began to notice a massive shift in my mood when winter rolled around.

Of course, people have their bad days when the bleak weather, rain and cold temperatures make them a little cranky.

However, this was something more, and it would last for way more than just a day.

Just knowing winter is approaching puts me on edge, as I always know what's coming: a complete personality shift.

Wondering what SAD feels like? These are the ways I would summarize it:

1. You have complete lack of energy.

You know those days when you're feeling tired and can't be bothered to do anything?

SAD is like that, but tenfold.

Last year, I became unbearable to my poor housemates. They would ask if I wanted to go out for a drink or hang out, and I would always say no.

I chose to continuously shut myself out when I was miserable and drained, and I felt embarrassed to basically say, "I loathe winter, and it makes me depressed."

Although, anyone who knows me well understands winter and I aren't tight.

Usually, I am on it when it comes to the gym or my fitness regime, but for the past couple of weeks since the clocks have gone back, I haven't had an ounce of energy to drag myself to the gym and participate in exercise.

Instead, I have zoned out at work with no concentration whatsoever, and I don't want to be a part of the conversation.

It's gotten to the point where a lovely colleague asked if I was okay, as I was so quiet and not my usual self.

I've stumbled around, desperate to get home and to my bed without realizing where I was going.

I once ended up on the wrong train to get home, as I literally stepped on the first one that arrived at the platform with complete disregard.

2. You could sleep for days.

This is one of the big ones for me, as I am not a huge sleeper.

Ask anybody who has had the misfortune of sharing a bed with me, and he or she will tell you I am an early bird who constantly wants to chat in the morning.

However, once my old foe winter rolls round, it's a different story.

I not only pass out for a couple of hours as soon as I get in from work, but I can sleep for 10 to 11 hours each night and still feel tired the next morning.

This isn't the usual, "I want to stay in bed all day in my underwear and watch Netflix."

This is the type of tiredness that consumes you, and you just want to close your eyes and wake up when everything is a little bit brighter, better and happier.

2. Negative feelings seep into your subconscious.

With a shift in personality comes a complete shift in your thought processes.

All my anxieties rear their ugly heads when I am feeling low, and I start questioning everything around me.

Having always been known as "sunshine girl" or "the loud one" among my peers, I always struggle when I see that side of my personality completely disappear come winter.

It is replaced with somebody who is sad and — dare I say — depressed.

I am extremely good at hiding when I am feeling down or upset, due to my "no emotions" barrier so many of us have become experts at.

But as soon as those short days and long nights roll in, I cry a lot.

I have found myself sobbing my heart out for the past few nights, as I have allowed myself to think horrible, negative thoughts while on the cusp of falling asleep.

Then, in turn, I get so frustrated I allowed this to happen to myself that it sets me off even more.

3. There is sunshine at the end of the tunnel.

On the outside, you may seem perfectly together. Though nothing is physically wrong with you, remember SAD is real.

It's a real mental health condition, and it's extremely important to recognize there's no shame in admitting you suffer from it.

If you think you are suffering from SAD, here are a few key things to try to help ease those symptoms during the winter months:

1. Workout.

It's amazing what a 30-minute session can do for your mood.

It's been drilled into our heads for a reason, and those endorphins will seriously increase your happy levels.

2. Eat healthy.

Again, this is a a no-brainer, but putting the right foods into your body will help.

I'm no health expert, but eating greens and making sure I also take vitamin supplements keep me on track.

3. Talk it out.

We're a generation of oversharers, so do what we do best and talk it through with your best friends or close family members.

I speak to my nana who also suffers, and I always feel a little bit better discussing it with her.

And one last thing: Summer will resurface its pretty head.

Until then, the holidays are on the horizon, which means all the food and alcohol you can dream of.

Wait, did I just list a perk of winter?