Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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A healthy, happy (and brimming with motivation) checklist to help you take on those winter days and avoid SAD

The nights are so very long, and the days feel oh so short… Sound familiar…?

When the skies are grey and dreary and the temperatures constantly low, it can make even the most positive people feel somewhat downbeat. Add lockdown and the constant anxieties around COVID into the mix, and the combination can really take a toll on our mental wellbeing.

Changes in season can really have a very big impact on our mental health and for some people it can lead to something called, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

SAD is a clinical depression that is caused by the change in season and is regularly known as the ‘winter depression’. Some of the symptoms of SAD might include:

  • A persistent low mood;
  • Irritability;
  • A loss of interest in normal activities;
  • Feelings of despair, guilt of worthlessness;
  • Feeling lethargic of lacking in energy;
  • The need to sleep in the day or finding it hard to get up in the morning;
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.

 

Here is our eight point checklist to reframe how you think about the winter months and avoid SAD:

Think Hygge: Sure, it’s cold, dark and wet, but try to think of the opportunities this might bring. It’s time to embrace the winter. Change your mind set to start thinking of the positives. Instead, think frosty walks, cosying up under a thick blanket, big chunky knits, lighting scented candles, enjoying a roaring fire and eating delicious roast dinners. Try not to see the winter months as a barrier. In actual fact, winter can open up a whole host of lovely things to do if you just look at it differently.

Get some sunshine: It can be difficult to get enough sunlight during the winter months, especially if you work inside all day. A lack of sunlight can make you feel sluggish and fatigued, so try to find ways to get outside and soak up the sunlight. Vitamin D is produced by the body as a response to exposure to sunlight and is key to maintain strong and healthy bones and teeth so it’s well worth getting out where you can. And remember, the sun doesn’t have to be shining brightly, you can get a boost even on cloudy days.

Eat well and maintain a healthy diet: When it’s cold outside, it can be really tempting to indulge in those comfort foods we all love. Whilst it is fine to enjoy the odd treat, we all need to be sensible and ensure a healthy balance. Think about eating bright and colourful foods; this will help you get a good mix of vitamins and minerals in your diet, and help to boost your immune system.

Stay hydrated: It’s something we all know, but drinking enough water is likely to be one of the first things that slips down the to-do list when you are busy. One of the main things to remember is that you don’t just have to drink water, all fluids count. Saying that though, do try to keep in mind the sugar and caffeine levels of fizzy drinks. Staying hydrated is essential for all bodily functions, and failure to do so will reduce your alertness, energy levels and immune function.

Limit your alcohol intake: When times are tough, it can be easy to turn to alcohol to ‘take the edge off.’ The problem is, if you regularly exceed the Government’s recommended limit of 14 units per week, you could be increasing your risk of liver disease, as well of a host of other nasty conditions. It is very common for people to drink alcohol out of habit. Try to break the habit by creating a path of resistance. The more effort it takes to do something, the less likely one is to do it. Ensure there is no alcohol in your home, or at the minimum, no ready-to-drink alcohol available. Here you are creating a path of resistance; the need to leave a house and go to a shop to buy alcohol. Make your vices harder to achieve.

Keep in touch: Feeling isolated can be detrimental to your mental health, so where you can, do try to keep in touch with friends and family. There are plenty of free platforms you can use to face-time, and while it wont ever replace face-to-face contact, it’s better than a simple phone call. Conversation can run dry if you only ever speak to the same people, so why not re-connect with old friends too?

Get your Zzzzs: We all need between 7-9 hours of sleep every day, and the key to this is sticking to a regular routine. This includes aiming to go up at the same time every night, making sure your bed is comfortable and cool and your bedroom is dark and quiet. Try to wind down for the hour before bed time, and don’t be tempted to use your phone or tablet before bed, this can hinder sleep inducing hormones and make getting to sleep more challenging.

Get active: Getting fit is a great way to boost you mental and physical wellbeing, and blow-away all those winter blues. Exercises like running or resistance training are great, but it doesn’t have to be this formal. Anything that gets you moving counts, so why not consider gardening; walking the dog; vigorous housework or even some DIY? The key is picking something you enjoy so you can

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