How to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder

What do you think of when you think about winter?

Snow, sleighs, chocolate, an open fire… despair, low self-esteem, anxiety?

The winter months, for me, with their grey skies, early sunsets and low temperatures, come with such feelings, triggered by the climate – and I’m not alone.

According to an investigation by The Weather Group, 29 per cent of adults in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as “The Winter Blues” – an onslaught of negative emotions exclusively in the winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is recognised as a form of depression by the NHS and lists a low mood, irritability and feeling worthless as symptoms.

Through years of research, I have formulated a plan to combat my SAD and if you feel that you might be a victim of this sickness, consider making these small changes to your daily routine too – or just move to the Southern Hemisphere for the season.

Invest in a wake-up light alarm clock

During the summer, many of us don’t need an alarm clock, as the sun has already peeked inside around the blinds.

But during winter, you might be mistaken for thinking you’ve set your alarm for 2am, instead of 6:30.

The presence of sunlight, or electric lighting, stops the release of melatonin (the hormone which helps the body go to sleep) and this is the science behind wake-up light alarm clocks (pictured).

These gadgets work like regular alarm clocks, but prior to the alarm going off, the alarm face begins to glow, from dim to bright, mimicking the sun.

This is designed to wake up the user before the alarm noise goes off, as one is woken during the summer by natural sunlight – and the brain is tricked into stopping the production of melatonin, which wakes the user up.

Lumie Sunrise Alarm (£39.99, Argos) lets you change your alarm light colour and choose between birds, frogs and goats for your alarm call.

At the other end of the market, Beurer WL 90 4-in-1 Wake Up Light (£139.99, John Lewis), allows you to stream music via Bluetooth for your alarm.

This is an expensive investment, but each morning won’t feel like winter – until you step outside.

Vitamin D supplements

When sunlight makes contact with our skin, it creates vitamin D, which then helps to maintain healthy muscles, bones and teeth.

While too much sun is bad for our skin, it’s important to get some for this purpose.

During the winter when days are shorter this can be difficult, so try taking a vitamin D supplement from September-March, which can be brought at your local pharmacy.

Exercise

Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, so find some time to sweat (plus, it will keep you warm!).

As it’s dark from 4pm, going for a jog or brisk walk after work might be unappealing, but there are other ways to get your endorphins roaring – besides rolling out the yoga mat for Love Island Winter (starting 8th January) and doing some sit ups in front of the telly.

Take up indoor sports, such as swimming, yoga, a dance class or hit the gyms in your area – some may be running special offers or taster sessions for new year starters.

At the weekends, go for a country walk – bring your thermos flask, gloves and a friend.

If possible, during your lunch break, head outside for a stroll with a podcast and walk where the sun’s light can find your face for an extra dose of vitamin D.

Get some indoor plants

As the trees remain bare, make your home greener – add a spider plant to your desk or build a terrarium.

Make plans

Like a New Years Resolution, each time you feel a pang of sadness for something you are unable to do because of the winter weather (walking barefoot on grass, picnics, outdoor swimming), put it on a list.

When spring arrives, set a date to do them all.

Talk about how you’re feeling

I had not heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder until a colleague first explained her condition to me.

If she had caved to embarrassment or pressed on with the British stiff-upper-lip, I would never have known that there was a term for how I felt.

Now I do, I can treat it.

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