Fitness & Health, Lifestyle

Don’t be SAD this winter

November 12, 2018

 

The clocks have gone back and the days are getting shorter and darker. Sadly there isn’t that much we can do to change this.

It is very common to be affected by the change in seasons. The vast majority of us will happy say that we feel happier and more energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, and that we find life that will bit harder in winter. It takes that extra effort to get out of bed in the cold and dark, we want to eat more and can generally can be left feeling a bit flat.

However, if you experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) the change in seasons will have a much greater effect on your mood and energy levels, and can lead to symptoms of depression that will have a large impact on your daily life.

 

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience at a particular time of year or during a particular season, most commonly during the winter months.

 

The exact causes of SAD are still unclear and there are numerous factors to consider but the most common triggers include:

 

  • Lower levels of light
  • A disrupted body clock– our brains adjust our body clock according to the hours of daylight. Some theories believe that if you experience SAD this part of your brain isn’t functioning properly or hasn’t recognised the change in time so our body clock slows down, leading to increased tiredness and possible depression. (An interesting theory but not considered to be the only cause)
  • Lower serotonin levels (the chemical released to regulate our mood)
  • Higher melatonin levels (the chemical released to induce sleep).
It is a recognised mental health disorder so is a bit more serious than just “Winter Blues” – fairly mild seasonal symptoms usually concentrated in the middle of winter – where treatments of self-care and utilising your support networks are usually the most effective forms of help.

 

There is no clear line between Winter Blues and SAD. So, how do we spot it?

 

The most common signs of SAD include:

  • Having problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Noticeable changes in mood
  • Being more prone to illnesses (due to a lowered immune system)
  • Having problems or a lack of interest in socialising and relationships

 

What can help?

  • Natural Light

This is a huge one. Make the most of the hours of daylight and get outside. It doesn’t have to be for very long, but studies have shown even spending 10 minutes exposed to natural light each day can significantly improve your mood. A walk down the road, having a cup of tea outside (or by a window!) or simply taking a few deep breathes of fresh air. Whatever suits you, make the most it. It’s a small change to make but one that can have a huge impact.

 

  • Try to avoid and reduce stress

If work is stressful, try and break it up into smaller more manageable tasks. Talk to people and share your thoughts. Put everything in perspective. Remember: progress NOT perfection.

 

  • Build up your support network and USE it

 Still owing that friend a coffee? Well, go and meet up. Get out be house. Talk to them. Sometimes sharing our thoughts can help eliminate stress, reduce anxiety and make you feel much better.

 

  • Exercise and eat well

Get some endorphins flowing. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy (running, yoga, boxing, football…) and have a go. Even better, get a friend to try it out with you?

A healthy balanced diet is so important,. And even more so during the winter months. The cliche rings true: you are what you eat. Food really can affect your mood. Some people recommend taking vitamin supplements, in particular B12, to help boost your immune system and fight off that winter flu.

 

  • Get a light box

These are specialist devices containing very bright Fluorescent tubes and are usually at least 10 times the intensity of household lights. Use it for an hour a day on your desk at work or at home.

 

  • Plan fun things

It can be easy to curl up on the sofa when it’s dark and cold outside so plan lots of things to look forward to. Always wanted to do that one thing? Well, nows a great time to do it!

 

  • Meditation and breath work

Help clear your mind and have some you time– more information on Breathe Work and Meditation here.

 

Lastly, Go easy on yourself. You are human and cant be 100% all the time. It’s simply impossible. It’s important to recognise if you, or someone around you, are affected by SAD and implement this self help into your daily routine. They are all small, easier changes to make and will have such a positive impact. Winter has so much to offer, so let’s make the most of it starting by looking after ourselves.

 

“Not everyday is a good day but there is good in everyday”

 

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know please seek professional help and advice.

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