Our Top Tips For Tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder
The festive period is the season to be jolly, isn’t it?. Unfortunately, for many of us, this time of the year isn’t so merry after all. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience during a particular season and is most felt during the winter months.
To bring the merry back into the winter, here are our 12 top tips for coping with SAD.
#1 Know that you’re not alone
SAD affects 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million across Northern Europe. Don’t brush off your low mood as “just the winter blues” and understand that SAD is a very real and very treatable thing. It really is okay not to be okay and with the right techniques and treatments you can improve your mood and learn to cope with SAD and depression.
#2 Eat yourself happier
Some foods can help increase your energy to help keep you going during the winter. Having a diet rich in foods such as protein, simple carbs and vitamins B12 and D, can help you combat the symptoms of SAD. Yes, that’s right, you now have another reason to eat some tasty carbs. Depression-fighting pasta and potatoes! But let’s not forget your fruit and veg.
Some may experience a lack of appetite during the winter months, and so can suffer from low energy. Ensuring you eat regular and balanced meals, can keep your energy topped up ready for you to take on the day.
#3 Work it out
Our physical and mental health are closely linked. So, keeping your body fit can help combat mental health issues, including SAD. You don’t need to become a gym junkie. A simple one hour walk a day, can be effective in lifting your mood. Wrap up warm and enjoy a stroll in the fresh air, perhaps with friends or family.
#4 Light it up
Some people find that light therapy can be effective for SAD. Light boxes and SAD lamps are designed to simulate sunlight and trigger a release of serotonin in the brain. Used regularly, for around 2 hours a day, the benefits of light therapy accumulate overtime. There is mixed evidence regarding the effectiveness of light therapies, so if you are interested, perhaps talk to your GP first. Although not available on the NHS, you can find SADA (Seasonal Affective Disorder Association) approved light boxes online.
#5 Spend time with those who make you happy
They say laughter is the best medicine. So, spend time with people who make you laugh and make you happy. Socialising with those you care about can be a great way to lift your mood and keep you going. With Christmas almost upon us, use these festive occasions to meet up with friends and family.
#6 Get all the natural light you can
The sun may not be out for as long as we would like at this time of the year and as SAD is often linked to reduced exposure to natural sunlight, it is important to get as much as you can. Sit by a window during the day or go for a nice little walk. Even if it’s cloudy, you will still get the benefit from natural day light.
#7 Good thinking
Be aware of your thoughts. The way we feel is can be seen to be inked to how we think about the situation we are in. Are all your thoughts negative? Challenge your thinking! What evidence do you have for this thought? If I look at this situation differently, does it change how I feel? Challenging your thoughts is a great technique commonly used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
#8 CBT Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aims to arm you with techniques and tools to change your thinking and improve your mood.
#9 Plan ahead and avoid stress
Many people can find this time of year stressful. Feeling stressed can make symptoms of SAD feel worse and even more overwhelming. Try to plan ahead to reduce the number of stressful or difficult activities. Make time for yourself to relax and unwind and use techniques for managing stress.
#10 If you need it, seek help
If you feel like you cannot cope alone and need advice, talk to your GP. They may be able to offer you advice or services to help you through the winter. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, rather it is a sign of strength to know that you need to do so. Your GP may wish to prescribe you antidepressants which can be a very effective treatment option.
Antidepressants can often be prescribed to treat depression and are thought to be effective for SAD if taken before the winter until spring. This does not have to be a long-term medication but preventing the symptoms before they happen can be beneficial. Talk to your GP for more information.
#12 ‘Tis the season!
Celebrate winter for all the things you love about it. From curling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate to making a festive wreath – remember all the parts of winter that make you happy. Even something as simple as putting on your favourite fluffy jumper or listening to Christmas songs. Winter can be a tough time for mental health, but there’s plenty of joy to be had too. During these difficult and dark times, perhaps think about the Christmas cheer and cosy nights in to help you through.