The UK’s clocks are due to go back this Sunday, and this inevitably means dark, gloomy nights are only around the corner. With early nights limiting the amount of sunlight we get, this could negatively impact our mood, potentially leading to a mental health problem such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is most commonly known as the ‘Winter Blues’. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include symptoms of depression (i.e., persistent low mood, a lack of interest in daily activities and feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness). However, it is specifically caused by the cold season, where we experience reduced sunlight and engage in limited activities in order to get through the winter months.
Dr Juliet Anton is a Chartered Psychologist and founder of the new self-help app AskDoc. In this guide, she shares her insights on how to understand Seasonal Affective Disorder and manage the symptoms.
Take in the sunlight
Whilst sunny weather is a rare sight across the UK in winter; it is still important to head outdoors and take in the fresh air. Winter weather means that people are less inclined to do any activity, let alone go out for a walk but, getting enough vitamin D is important in helping you lift your mood.
If the weather is dark, rain is downpouring, and you can’t bring yourself to head outdoors, sit near a window whilst working, get it done and out the way earlier on in the day and get it out the way, or go with a friend or family member which might make the activity that bit more fun!
Engage in regular exercise
Encouraging hormones such as dopamine and endorphins are a fantastic way to lift your mood, especially in the winter. A workout at the gym or yoga class at your local leisure centre are things you can incorporate into your week to ensure that you get your body moving. If cardio isn’t your thing, try a relaxing yoga class or pick up some weights to ease yourself in.
Travelling to and from your gym or leisure centre will expose you to the necessary sunlight – even if it’s a lunchtime stroll to your local Starbucks for a coffee or meal. Getting your blood pumping is an incredibly effective way to ease a low mood and will leave you feeling more positive as you tackle the remaining day.
Eat the rainbow.
When sunshine is in short supply, infusing your diet with some healthy choices is a great way to give your mood a boost. Citrus fruits can help us to feel refreshed, while green vegetables give us an influx of iron and energy – perfect for when you feel lethargic. Whilst you may struggle to feel motivated to cook after a long day at work, cooking is a great distraction and a way to destress, so have fun creating new recipes and treat cooking dinner as a form of self-care.
Don’t forget the Vitamin D that we would otherwise get from sunlight – be it foods or supplements; make sure to include Vitamin D in your diet during the winter months.
Use cognitive behavioural therapy.
It’s not uncommon for people to keep calm and carry on, often ignoring our mental health problems and leaving them to stack up. That said, it is important to get help when you need it and when you feel most comfortable. Much like the rest of our body, when our brain is in pain, it’s helpful to get some help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist.
Try a light box
Bright light therapy is considered to be very effective for battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sitting in front of a light box for around 20 to 30 minutes a day can help encourage a chemical change in your brain that boosts your mood, which in turn addresses symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Safe to use and widely available, a bit of light therapy may help you feel braver and brighter on your chilly winter commute to work.
And there you have it, five tips and techniques to help you tackle Seasonal Affective Disorder and improve your mood over the winter period. Remember, it is never okay to suffer alone, and getting help is crucial to help support your mental health and wellbeing.
One way to help deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder is by using the AskDoc app. It is available to download for free from the Apple Store (for iPhone’s) and Google Play (for Android phones) and provides access to free specialist courses from an expert psychologist. The app also offers an optional £5 subscription to the Depression Forum once the course has been completed.
For more information, please visit www.askdoc.com.
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