As the days grow shorter and the long nights draw in, it’s hard not to feel some sense of sadness at having to wave goodbye to summer.
But for some, Old Man Winter can bring along the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A type of depression, SAD tends to affect more people in the colder months when there is reduced exposure to sunlight, although some may experience the disorder in summer too.
If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder, you will be no stranger to fatigue, low mood and carbohydrate cravings.
While you probably won’t feel like socialising, locking yourself away is the worst thing you can do, whereas being active and spending time with friends will no doubt help improve your mental health.
Seasonal affective disorder can have a serious impact on your lifestyle and productivity, but while some more severe cases may require the help of a GP or therapist, SAD can usually be self-treated. It’s important to trial different ways to alleviate seasonal affective disorder, so we’ve put together a few ideas to help you reduce the winter blues and ease your symptoms.
As seasonal affective disorder is often linked to a lack of natural sunlight, many people rely on light therapy to compensate. Light boxes emit bright light and should be used at home during the darker months for thirty minutes to an hour every morning. While it might sound like a chore, light therapy can be mood-elevating and is said to be one of the most highly used treatments for people with SAD.
Another method is to ‘hunt down’ natural light which will help raise serotonin levels, so make the most of a bright day wherever possible. Being outdoors won’t necessarily cure the disorder, but rounding up your friends on your Loose Ends app and going for a long walk will certainly help.
Take a winter holiday
In the UK, we are no strangers to long and cold winters. While the snow may look pretty, it doesn’t always make us feel good, especially if you’ve got seasonal affective disorder. Christmas is often a busy time, but saving your annual leave for a winter getaway in January will help you tackle the worst stretch of winter, especially if you take along friends and family.
There are plenty of places that offer a warm and sunny climate at this particular time of year, so making the most of summer at home and hopping on a plane in the new year will help ease both winter and January blues.
Seasonal affective disorder may make you feel lethargic and low in energy, and while exercising might feel like a monumental struggle, it can actually help improve these symptoms. It doesn’t have to be a difficult gym workout, but a long walk or some gentle yoga will help raise endorphins, improve your mood and increase your energy levels.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to go alone, recruit a friend to go with you, or create a Loose End on your app to see if anyone fancies a run around the park.
Have a healthy diet
If you’ve got seasonal affective disorder, you may experience intense carbohydrate cravings and find yourself more tempted than usual to gorge on comfort food. While this may provide some immediate satisfaction, ditching the junk can really help soothe some of the symptoms of SAD.
Balancing carbohydrates with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein will provide you with a greater source of energy, and cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugar will ease any sluggishness you may be experiencing.
If you usually like eating out with friends, why not use your Loose Ends app to arrange a dinner out, or invite friends round for a healthy dinner? Cooking up a healthy storm together in the kitchen will help tackle your low mood.
Use your Loose Ends app to socialise
It isn’t always easy to talk about your mental health, but letting a few close friends and family members know what you’re going through will help build a support network.
Socialising is great for the mind, and while it may be difficult during the winter months to find your get up and go, staying in touch with those close to you and doing things you enjoy together will help relieve your symptoms. Use your Loose Ends app to arrange outings with friends, even if you’re only able to stay for a short while.
Alternatively, why not use the app to start a new hobby together? Finding mutual interests with your friends will give you a new focus, distract your mind and ward off symptoms.
If you have a friend suffering from seasonal affective disorder, use Loose Ends to encourage them to get out of the house and offer them the emotional support they may well be seeking.
Being cold may exacerbate SAD symptoms, so take steps to ensure you are warm at all times. Keep an eye on the Met Office website for severe weather warnings, invest in a decent heater and wrap yourself up in a snug jumper to stave of winter chills.
If you suffer with seasonal affective disorder or any other type of depression, stress can aggravate your symptoms. If you know you find the winter months tough, plan ahead and cut back on any activities that may cause you to feel stressed. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your boss and see if they can do anything to help with your work-life balance.
Regular and scheduled sleep
Some people with seasonal affective disorder feel as though they need more sleep; however, oversleeping can actually have a negative effect. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, dawn simulators can be attached to your alarm clock and mimic sunrise, which will help you wake up gradually. Sticking to a sleep pattern will help your body adapt to the shorter days and longer nights.
If you feel as though self-help isn’t working for you, it might be worth exploring other alternatives. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling may help you cope with your symptoms. If you feel that seasonal affective disorder is having such a severe impact on you that you can’t live a normal life, get in touch with your local GP for medical assistance.