Christmas has come to an end and the new year has started, despite all the festive cheer you may be noticing a dip in your mood. This can be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this is a common mental health problem and can affect people of any age, including children. Reports say that 1 in 15 people will suffer from SAD in the UK, which can happen in any season, but is most common in the winter months such as December, January and February.
SAD often occurs during the winter when lower levels of sunlight may affect the balance of hormones like serotonin and melatonin. Lower levels of these two hormones can negatively impact sleep, mood and overall well-being.
In order to put a plan of action in place to manage SAD, you need to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of the disorder. The most common symptoms include;
- Sleep problems – usually oversleeping and difficulty staying awake but, in some cases, disturbed sleep and early morning waking.
- Lethargy – lacking in energy and unable to carry out normal routine due to fatigue. Heaviness in the arms and legs.
- Overeating – craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, which usually leads to weight gain.
- Depression – feeling sad, low and weepy, a failure, sometimes hopeless and despairing.
- Social problems – irritability and withdrawal from social situations, not wanting to see friends.
- Anxiety – feeling tense and unable to cope with stress.
Want to boost your mood during dark winter months? You’re in luck! Here are some tips on ways to manage symptoms of SAD.
Try to incorporate some regular exercise into your day, this can help ease the symptoms of depression, especially during the gloomy winter months.
You don’t have to suddenly start doing intensive training or join a gym (unless you want to) to enjoy the benefits of exercise, a daily walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. Any type of exercise activates dopamine and serotonin, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. These chemicals can help fight symptoms of SAD.
Get enough light
Try taking in as much sunlight as possible during the winter months, get outside for a quick stroll in the morning, get as much natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. This can be as easy as opening your blinds during the day or getting outside. Getting a good amount of natural light during the day can help alleviate symptoms of SAD.
When the body absorbs sunlight, it also absorbs vitamin D, which has a number of health benefits. It may be hard to get enough vitamin D in the winter, so taking a supplement during dark winter months may help your overall mental health.
Eat healthy - Combat unhealthy habits
With the start of the new year, more and more people will be looking to improve their diets, the real problem is sticking with it. But the benefits of a healthy diet will help combat SAD, it will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop increased weight gain over the winter months.
Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. There are a number of ways to cope with symptoms of SAD, but it can be easy to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms during winter. Activities like drinking or overeating may feel good in the moment, but can lead to feeling more anxious and depressed later on.
Take up a hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new hobby can help keep away the symptoms of SAD. This hobby can be anything that would interest you or if you feel daring then step out of your comfort zone and try something completely new.
These hobbies could include starting a journal, writing blogs, knitting, video editing, running, arts & crafts and even more. Look online for inspiration, the important thing is to have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
If you feel as though you feel more than just “blue" during the wintertime, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.
Contact your local GP for medical help, or try some of these support lines and resources below:
Samaritans: 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Rethink Mental Illness: 0300 5000 927
SANE: 0300 304 7000