If you feel tired, low and lethargic during the winter months when daylight hours are shorter, there’s a chance you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition also known as winter depression or the winter blues.
There can be strong links between the weather and wellbeing, with more than half of UK adults reporting lower mood in winter months – and as many as one in three adults suffering from SAD symptoms, according to a study from The Weather Channel/YouGov. The reason for this is that the reduced sunlight can affect the feel-good chemicals in our brain, which can trigger a low mood. Most of the time the symptoms of SAD will lessen when the spring brings sunnier days and longer daylight hours, but that still means several drawn-out winter months that can feel like an endurance test when you’re low on energy and mood.
The symptoms of SAD can include:
- Fatigue and tiredness.
- Wanting to sleep the whole time, and perhaps struggling to get some decent sleep.
- Craving carbs and comfort food, which can lead to weight gain.
- Losing interest in the things you usually love.
- Feeling irritated or agitated.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Experiencing feelings of hopelessness or despair.
- Refusing invitations to social events for fear that you’ll be boring, or bored.
- Feeling guilty that you’re letting people down, or that you’re a failure.
- Feeling anxious that you can’t cope with everyday stresses.
Tips for coping with SAD
In our work as therapists, we often see signs of SAD in people as soon as the clocks go back. If your symptoms are severe then we would recommend speaking to your GP. Here we share some self-help strategies that may support you if you’re affected by milder symptoms of SAD…
Allow yourself to hibernate
If you know you’re not on top form socially or emotionally during the winter season, then see it as an opportunity to devote some time and space to prioritise self-care. Think of it as hibernation. Take care of all your senses, with nice things to watch, listen to, smell, taste and touch.
Let there be light
Light therapy is said to be an effective way of reducing SAD symptoms for some people. Light therapy involves exposing yourself to a light therapy box that mimics daylight. Other people may prefer to grab themselves some real daylight as and when the sun makes an appearance in winter. Sitting outside, wrapped up in, in winter sunlight can be a mood booster for some.
Know that this will pass
This can be a tricky one. When you experience low mood and energy, and feelings of worthlessness, it can be hard to remember a time when you felt good about yourself. If your symptoms are seasonally related, know that they will pass in time. Try to remind yourself of that when the days are at their darkest.
Exercise is often cited as a key weapon in the fight against depressive symptoms. Stay active in ways you enjoy.
Do an activity that puts you in flow
If you’re inside more during the winter months, find an indoor activity that absorbs you. Being in flow, doing something you adore, can help reignite your interest in life. You may want to take up a craft activity, try out new recipes in the kitchen, read books, or try a jigsaw puzzle.
Keep a journal
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can lessen their grip on you. Allow yourself to write about your sad days and your happier days, checking in daily with your mood. Journaling can help you sort through and process your emotions and gain a fresh perspective.
Talk to someone
While it can be tempting to isolate yourself, it’s healthier for you if you keep up with your social networks. Speak to friends, spend time with family, or seek out a professional if you feel you need objective support.
If you’re experiencing the winter blues and feel you could benefit from talking to a professional, then get in touch with our reception team to discuss seeing one of our therapists. You can reach us on 020 8673 4545 and [email protected]