24 Feb

Beating the winter blues

Key symptoms

  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Lethargy
  • Overeating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling down and unsociable

It is thought that SAD affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.

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According to Sue Pavlovich of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), these 10 tips could help. “Everyone’s affected differently by SAD so what works for one person won’t for another,” she says. “But there’s usually something that will help, so don’t give up if the first remedy you try doesn’t work. Just keep trying.”

  1. Keep active

Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.

  1. Get outside

Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colors that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

  1. Keep warm

Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).

  1. Eat healthy

A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

  1. See the light

Light therapy can be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for 30 mins to up to two hours a day.   Light boxes give out very bright light that is at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. Look for them online or at SADA website.

“Some people find that using a dawn simulator [a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, which mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually] as well as a light box can enhance the beneficial effect,” says Pavlovich.

  1. Take up a new hobby

Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD, says Pavlovich. “It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on,” she adds.

  1. See your friends and family

It’s been shown that socializing is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits.

  1. Talk it through

Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. Find a mental health professional to help you work through the depression.

  1. Join a support group

Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it’s like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable.

SADA is the UK’s only registered charity dedicated to seasonal affective disorder. It costs £12 (£7 for concessions) to join and you’ll receive an information pack, regular newsletters, discounts on products such as light boxes and contacts for telephone support.

  1. Seek help

If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, don’t just shut yourself in your house and bury yourself under the blankets–see your MD for medical help or find a mental health professsional to support you during this difficult season, especially if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.  Remember this season of weather and life will change.

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/dealing-with-winter-blues-sad.asp

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