Do You Suffer From Seasonal Affective Disorder? And Do You Want it To Stop?

November 30, 2023

Dimple Sthankiya

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 I am on a mission to Revolutionize the Midlife Experience of Women, Everywhere.

I'm an Entrepreneur, a highly sought-after Coach and Wellness Expert. My favourite role in life is being a thriving Solo Mum to my wonderful son and like you, I am navigating Midlife and Perimenopause.

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Hi, I'm dimple

This blog post is my personal account of combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition that particularly affects many during the darker, colder months. It’s an inspiring story of transformation, offering practical tips and insights that are especially relevant for women in midlife who may be dealing with perimenopause alongside seasonal mood changes.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Its Impact on Midlife

As winter approaches the days get shorter, darker, and colder. The last thing you want to do is exercise. I get it. Who wants to get a sweat on when comfort food, wine and Netflix beckons?

Navigating the journey through midlife can be challenging, especially for perimenopausal women. This phase often brings a host of physical and emotional changes, making it crucial to find effective ways to maintain mental and physical well-being.

My Personal Struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

I suffer from what is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it always seems to creep up on me slowly. Up until Christmas time I’m usually too busy and dazzled by lights and merriment so don’t notice the brain and heart fog blanketing my soul, but come the cold harsh reality of January, I notice that I’ve lost interest in so many things that I usually enjoy and I feel like I’m just existing. And waiting. Waiting for the green shoots of spring, longer days and a return to my zest for life.

In winter I feel like a slug. A slow moving sticky slug. I feel like my worst self. Grumpy. Down on myself. No sparkle. Just a sense of foreboding, a sense of dread. How could darkness have such an effect on me? And why can’t I just turn the lights back on?

SAD can feel like a heavy cloak, especially during perimenopause, when hormonal fluctuations can already make emotions feel like a rollercoaster. It’s not just the blues; it feels like a part of you is hibernating, waiting for brighter days. This is particularly true after the holiday season, when the initial excitement dims and the reality of long, dark days sets in.

Perimenopause brings its own set of challenges – hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and sometimes a feeling of disconnect with one’s evolving self. These changes can amplify the effects of SAD, making it harder to find motivation and joy in daily activities. It’s a dual battle: fighting the physiological changes of midlife and the psychological impact of shorter, darker days.

The Turning Point: Seeking Solutions for Seasonal Affective Disorder

A couple of years ago I decided enough was enough. Either I move abroad, spend winters elsewhere with more daylight and heat, which I did a few years back, when I spent 3 glorious sunny months in Venice Beach. And yes that worked brilliantly. Or I try and deal with this thing once and for all. I simply wasn’t prepared to spend another autumn/ winter suffering so I went about researching ways to significantly improve my mood and activity levels.

Lifestyle Changes and Their Impact on Seasonal Affective Disorder

The turnaround for me began with small, yet significant lifestyle changes. Eliminating alcohol was the first step. It’s crucial, particularly during perimenopause, as alcohol can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and mood swings. Then came the Lumie SAD light, an aid in balancing circadian rhythms disrupted by shorter days. Diet also played a vital role. A keto-inspired diet, rich in good fats and low in simple carbs, not only helped in managing weight, which can be a struggle during midlife, but also stabilized my mood.

Meditation and visualization became daily rituals, helping me connect with a happier version of myself. These practices are particularly beneficial for perimenopausal women as they foster a sense of inner calm and balance amidst the hormonal chaos.

All of these tricks worked and the combination of doing them all at the same time had me thinking yay, I’ve nailed this. Only I hadn’t. Not really. Not intrinsically. Yes I felt better more of the time and I definitely had more energy. But I still had that sense of claustrophobia I get when the days become shorter and the nights set in, all the way up to mid-Feb, when finally, I start to feel normal again. When the joyful me returns.

This called for answers. I wanted to find something over and above the experiments I had already done. I was searching for something that truly turned the dial, that stuck and turned this SAD around.

Embracing Exercise as a Key Tool

I had to look at it like a scientist. I had to experiment with something that was already staring me in the face. EXERCISE. Consistent, mind-altering exercise.

I recognised that despite loving exercise, as soon as the shorter, colder days arrived the less exercise I did. Way less. During British Summer Time (BST) I’m out and about all the time and find it easy peasy to do high intensity exercise nearly every day, a decent yoga practice at least 3 times a week and I tend to walk pretty much everywhere.

Yet as soon as Autumn arrives, I severely limit how much time I spend doing exercise of any kind, even my beloved yoga. I don’t do this intentionally. It just happens without me even realising and subsequently has a significantly negative impact on my mind and wellbeing.

Why was this? And could exercise be the answer?

Could it really make that much of a difference? As a perimenopausal woman, I also realized that my body responded differently to exercise compared to my younger years. It wasn’t just about staying fit, it was about hormonal balance, mental clarity, and emotional well-being.

I’ve learned a lot about how exercise impacts the neurochemistry within the brain. This led me to thinking ‘Yes come on Dimple’ This is the game-changer. I intuitively felt that this was the answer. I had to keep doing daily exercise in winter just as I do in summer, no matter how hard or ludicrous that seems.

So a couple of years ago. I did an experiment.


Exercise = The Gamechanger

Transformative Results of My Exercise Experiment on SAD

I created a routine and it looked something like this: NO MATTER WHAT, I did 10 minutes of high-intensity training, 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of lifting weights, every day for 40 days.

I made it my mission to exercise no matter how busy, tired and stressed I was. Exercise took on the same importance as brushing my teeth and having a shower. This meant doing micro-workouts instead of my beloved hour long sessions so I could fit in enough to make a meaningful difference and turnaround my winter blues.

I say this because at the time my son was a toddler and naturally, he needed me which kept me very busy on top of my work. I refused to make him my excuse for curling up on the sofa at the end of a long, sometimes stressful, sometimes busy day instead of doing what I had to do which was exercise.

This worked. This was the GAME CHANGER. The results were transformative. Within days, I noticed a shift in my mood and energy levels. The combination of exercise and lifestyle changes seemed to counteract not only the symptoms of SAD but also some of the challenges of perimenopause. My sleep improved, hot flashes became less intense, and I found a renewed sense of vitality.

The journey wasn’t easy. There were days when my body felt sluggish, days when hot flashes drained my energy, but the commitment to exercise proved to be a powerful antidote. It was more than physical fitness; it was about mental resilience. The discipline of daily workouts, even when my body resisted, built a mental toughness that was empowering.

The impact on my body was noticeable. Despite the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause, I maintained a healthy weight, and my body composition improved. More importantly, I felt strong, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.

This experience taught me the power of self-care, particularly during the transformative phase of midlife. It’s a message I want to share with other perimenopausal women. The combination of the right diet, exercise, and mental wellness practices can not only help manage SAD but can also ease the journey through perimenopause.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Midlife can be a time of great transformation and growth.


I felt Positive. Optimistic. Happy. Content. Grateful.

I was military about doing the micro-workouts. If I missed a day then I had to make it up the next. I was determined not to let one day slip. Which only happened twice. I noticed that even by Day 30 I was doing 60 minutes of micro-workouts per day and by Day 40 this was at 90 minutes per day. And this didn’t include walking.

Doing exercise every day for 40 days during winter was more a mental achievement than anything else. There were some days my mind and body felt like glue and I didn’t want to step onto my my yoga mat or lift weights, but self-determination and a fear of a return to the doom and gloom of SAD kept me in check.

Astonishingly my mental strength really improved over these winter months and by end of Jan, typically a time when I feel at my worst, I felt happier and stronger than I normally do in the summer months.

This time was different. I felt brilliant. On top of the world. Strong. Expansive. Hopeful. Energised.

Physically I never lost any weight, though my body shape and composition changed quite remarkably. Less love handles. Barely there bingo wings. More long lean legs and sculpted arms. My abs felt strong. My back lifted me that wee bit higher, improving my posture and hence my standing in the world. My confidence returned.

Like I said exercise has a compound effect.

My mind now sharper, more creative, in turn allowed me to focus more and have the discipline I needed to finish the things I had started. This bolstered my self-esteem, and this increased trust in myself led me to feeling really good. Of course this impacted my life in other positive ways. Better decision making, more patience and having a greater presence. All of which gave me the sense that I was living life to the full and not letting it pass me by.

I felt happy. I felt content. I felt whole. Happy. Grateful. Optimistic. Expansive. The claustrophobia had gone.

For the first time in winter I no longer counted how many hours of sunlight I was getting. You see I used to be one of those people who looked at the website that shows sunrise and sunset times religiously, daily, and now I only checked it once a week.

Just Do It – Get Moving

As hard as it may seem you should definitely get going and move that body of yours. Exercise counteracts depression at almost every level. In the UK doctors regularly recommend exercise as the first line of treatment for depression.

I know it’s easier to get off the couch and get your body moving in the summer, but if you suffer from the winter blues and SAD in particular, then it is even more important to exercise daily when autumn and winter arrives.

And the sense of accomplishment is even higher.

My Top 10 Tips for Perimenopausal Women Combating SAD:

  1. Embrace Outdoor Activities: Aim for daily walks, regardless of the weather. Fresh air and natural light can work wonders. I get outside and walk at least 8000 steps per day whatever the weather. Dress up warm and just do it!
  2. Incorporate Micro-Workouts: Short bursts of exercise can be more manageable and equally effective. I do at least 2 ten-minute Micro-workouts daily, preferably one weight bearing and the other with as much high intensity as your current fitness allows
  3. Prioritize Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial during this phase. Develop a calming bedtime routine. I try to get at least 7 hours sleep a night and meditate for 5-10 minutes either side of hitting the pillow and waking up.
  4. Monitor Your Diet: Reduce sugar and alcohol intake. Focus on nutrient-rich foods that balance hormones. I stay off the sugar and simple carbs at least 5 days per week and only eat these as a treat. This is the season of festivities after all. I also eat more good fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, oily fish, and avocados. Preferably consume at least three of these daily.
  5. Supplement With Vitamin D3: ITake Vitamin D3 2000iu, Omega 3, Magnesium, K2 and Zinc daily during this time of the year.
  6. Stay Connected: Social connections are vital. Reach out to friends, family, join groups and engage in community activities.
  7. Stay Hydrated: Water is key for overall health and helps in managing hot flashes. I aim for 40-50oz daily.
  8. Dance Like No-one’s Watching: I put on my headphones and do a 10 minute dance blast in the morning, 10 minutes at night and boy does that turnaround my mindset!!
  9. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption: I recommend at least 3 days off the booze per week or better still quit completely for three months mid-Nov to mid Feb during the darkest days. Or alternatively take part in Dry January. That way you’re not alone and in it with others.
  10. Practice the Art of Appreciation Daily: Think of as many things that you appreciate in that moment and really feel those feelings of appreciation coursing through your veins. Do this at the bookends of your day. Trust me this works and puts your head in an undeniably vibrant space.

My Nugget Of Wisdom

Drawing inspiration from Robin Sharma, a highly esteemed self-help guru, he says “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make.” I can vouch, from my exercise experiment that it works. The way it boosted my confidence, self-esteem and happiness was insane, way more than I ever imagined.

Perks Of Ditching Alcohol During Perimenopause, Are You Feeling Inspired To Give It A Go? 

To make the journey easier, why not check out our Program, ‘QUIT ALCOHOL AND WIN BACK YOUR MIND & BODY SHAPE IN PERIMENOPAUSE’. 

Launching on 1st MAY 2024 this Program could be just the guide you need to help you tap into those unexpected benefits of being alcohol-free in perimenopause. The best part? There’s a 20% early bird discount if you book early. Fancy exploring a bit more?


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