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Tiz it really the season “to be jolly”?

We all get affected by the weather.  I mean “you have a sunny disposition” comes from somewhere, right? When the sun shines (unless it’s baking to the point of melting your soul!) we all have a bit more of a spring in our step. Conversely, how often do we say “the weather is miserable” when it’s gloomy and raining. Emotional and state of mind seem to be tethered to the weather.

The most extreme version of this is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
www.mind.org.uk defines it here:
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

If you have SAD, you’ll experience depression during some seasons in particular, or because of certain types of weather or temperature. You can experience it in winter or summer.”

That’s right, you can experience SAD in summer too…!  But it’s more commonly associated with the darker, colder winter months.  Let’s look at the more extreme symptoms of SAD, so you can watch out for these in yourself and in those you love:

  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Isolating
  • Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless
  • Feeling anxious, angry and agitated
  • Being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
  • Sleeping too much, or difficulty waking up (common with SAD in winter)
  • Sleeping too little, or waking up a lot (common with SAD in summer)
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Losing interest in physical contact/intimacy
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Other symptoms of depression

This therefore can be a pretty serious condition in the extreme.

It can be hard to admit that we’re affected by the weather. You may find it embarrassing. It happens every year, have I not learned to deal with this yet?

Firstly. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is science, proven, clinical. It’s most definitely not a weakness. Be open to the possibility that you’re being affected. Then, think about steps that you can take to gently address this that doesn’t involve performing sun-dances or simply praying for the winter to end quickly.

What can we do?

  1. Move your body! OK, this seems to be the answer to everything… But simply put, it’s the most time-honoured proven method to improve most things in your life. Consider making time to go to the warm gym, or perhaps do a HIIT workout in your warm home, and in addition… get wrapped up and have a brisk walk to get the crisp fresh air in your system.
  2. Get what sunshine you can. Coupled with the above, try to wrap up and get outside often. Light works wonders for our circadian rhythm, and as much natural light as possible fends of depressive mood.
  3. In the absence of the sun… Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. A chronic lack of vitamin D can be quite serious and very miserable indeed. So, consider* eating foods with vitamin D (oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and also spreads), and consider supplements. *Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor or dietician… So please see the word “consider” and do not treat this as medical advice*
  4. I know winter is the season to be jolly, but perhaps consider not opening that bottle of wine or 4 pack of beers, as we all know, alcohol is a depressant. After the initial high, it can exacerbate low mood.
  5. Stick to a routine and ritual as best you can. Having a regular bedtime and mealtimes can cement good habits and help again with our circadian rhythm. It can also help us keep achieving on a daily basis vs going with the flow of your current mood.
  6. Prioritise social activities. Staying connected with friends and loved ones can keep you engaged in your day to day and maintain your “purpose”.
  7. Dawn clocks, and SAD lamps. This is one to safely look into, but studies have shown that these 2 devices can help significantly with SAD.
  8. Lastly… Consider talking to your GP. If you’re really down, and intensely experiencing the symptoms listed above, then consider reaching out. No one deserves to feel so miserable/anxious/low.

So, there we go… Something to think about as we draw towards the end of the year.

Do you suffer from any degree of SAD? What do you do to help combat the winter blues? I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions.

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