Dealing with seasonal affective disorder

Beat the winter blues 


As we head into the winter months, the dark mornings and cold nights can alter our moods. Some of us even develop a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly known as the winter blues.

Not everyone experiences SAD, of course, but we want to explain what it is and share some advice to help you through the next few months.

Like depression, SAD is more common in women than men and appears to stem from the reduced light that winter brings with it.

The shorter days can disrupt a human body’s circadian rhythms – the internal clock –and the parts of the brain that make mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. SAD’s symptoms are similar to depression. They often include low mood and lethargy, and a loss of enjoyment and interest in life. Here are some other things to look out for:

  • Trouble waking up and sleeping more than usual;
  • Craving stodgy and sugary foods;
  • Difficulties staying connected to loved ones;
  • Anxiety and irritability;
  • Feeling indecisive and lacking in concentration;
  • Losing interest in sex.

So, to help you cope with SAD, we have listed some helpful tips below. Even if you don’t have SAD, building these into your day-to-day life can help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.

Get outside

We always talk about how mental and physical health are entwinned. Exercise is good for you, no matter the weather. A one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be help you cope with the winter blues. Wrap yourself up and step outside for some fresh air. When you are building your routine, think about ways you can schedule activities that get you out of the house and connected to the outside world.

Build a routine

Routines can be an important way of feeling in control. For example, you could set time for getting up each morning and, more importantly, a time for going to sleep. Turn your phone off before bed and read a book, or take a bath, to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. A healthy bedtime schedule should eliminate napping and oversleeping, both of which can make you feel worse. Alongside side this, a sleep diary should help you to track the ways in which your mood and sleeping patterns are linked. That way, you can plan some self-care and take action when you are feeling a bit low.

Learn ways to relax

Tracking your mood is also important because it helps you to cope with your emotions, developing crucial emotional resilience and finding ways to manage life’s ups and downs, its stresses and strains. By trying out some relaxation techniques, you can learn about looking after your wellbeing when feeling under pressure, anxious or busy.

Reach out

Socialising with friends and family is good for your mental health because it will lift you up when you’re feeling low. If you make an effort to stay in touch with people who care about you, you’ll feel the benefits immediately. If you think you might have SAD, contact a GP – speaking to a professional can help you get the right support. If your mood is extremely low, or if you need to speak to someone immediately, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.