Have you been struggling to get out of bed, especially now that the mornings are dark and cold? Missing the sunlight during the day? Feeling lethargic or burned out?
You may be suffering with something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)*.
You’re not alone… It’s thought the winter blues affects around 2 million people in the UK every year and can affect people of any age, including children. If any of this is ringing bells for you, stick around as we have some tips to help you manage SAD this festive season.
What is SAD?
SAD presents as a persistent low mood, that can affect your everyday life and at times your productivity and mood at work, which is far from ideal at any time of year, but particularly discouraging leading up to and during the festive season.
It’s common to be affected by the seasons’ changes, most notable perhaps, the amount of natural light our bodies are exposed to (or not) and the temperature peaks and drops. The days are much shorter in winter and a lot of us feel the difference once the clocks have gone forward.
What Are the Main Signs to Look Out For?
• Feeling tired/lethargic
• Finding it hard to get out of bed or sleeping more than usual
• You are more hungry than usual or craving more carbs (Hello Christmas food!!)
• Difficulty making decisions or thinking clearly
• Feeling anxious and irritable or sad and tearful
• Struggling to feel connected to friends and family/ not wanting to see people
• Being more prone to illness such as colds or other infections
An important thing to remember, is if you are suffering you should always consult your doctor. They can help you to navigate the feelings of SAD, and point you to further support.
Now For the Tips…
- Sleep more! Think about it- we are animals and what do a lot of animals do in the winter? Hibernate! We’re not saying hide away for 3 months, but be patient with yourself if you are feeling more tired than usual! Use the extra darkness wisely and curl up in bed for an extra hour or two in the evenings.
2. Get as much natural light as possible during the day. Go for a lunchtime walk, get out in the fresh (sometimes rainy) air! If there is water near you, take a visit- our bodies naturally relax when near water, as minerals in the air can reduce stress (Why Being Near The Water Is Good For Your Mind and Body (medicaldaily.com)). If you are unable to get out, sit by a window during the day and listen to ocean sounds to calm your mind of worries.
3. Brighten up your environment. Especially important if you are working from home- like our last point, opening curtains and windows (in moderation of course- we’re not ignoring the cost-of-living crisis!) whilst you’re inside can help ease the symptoms of SAD. Bringing in some of the outdoors with indoor plants can also help you feel closer to nature!
4. Eat a balanced diet. You may be craving more ‘carby’ foods such as warm porridge or crusty bread with your soup, these are great to fill you up and keep you energised! Be sure to balance these with plenty of veg and fruit too. (Try this warm salad recipe Roasted Vegetable Winter Salad – Hungry Healthy Happy)
5. Take your vitamins! Vitamin D has been shown to significantly improve depression symptoms, (as seen in Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. – Abstract – Europe PMC) and has many other positive effects such as improved skeletal strength, immune system, and heart function- all from one vitamin! Win!
6. Plan ahead. It can be hard to look ahead when you are feeling low, but this is even more reason to plan your days in advance. Without a routine, we can feel a little lost or like every day is the same. Instead, gift yourself something to look forward to, such as a hot bubble bath after work, a walk with a friend or some ‘you time’ with a cup of tea and a good book.
Give yourself some structure, prepare some things to look forward to, to accomplish.
7. Invest in a sunlight lamp. The benefits of these are said to include improving mood and energy by imitating the natural light from the sun, which decreases melatonin, the sleep hormone (in turn, making you feel more energised). The effects of an SAD lamp may be placebo, but we’ll let you be the judges of that (research here SAD lamps: do you really need one and how to buy the best – Which?)
One of the tips we haven’t mentioned, is talking to your friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved and we think it makes all the difference talking about how you are feeling with people you trust.
Hopefully, armed with these tips (pardon the pun…) you will be able to tackle the cold, dark winter months with some tricks up your cosy, Christmas jumper sleeve!
*This blog and its tips should not replace the care of a registered medical professional.
If any of this resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to contact the following services for professional help:
Samaritans: Chat with us online | Contact a Samaritan (samaritans.org) Tel: 116 123
Mind: Find local Minds – Mind