Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the name for depressive feelings brought on by the different seasons, is reported to affect two million people in the UK and more than 12 million people in Northern Europe. Considering here in the UK, cold weather and short days takeover a considerable amount of our entire year, this could make for a miserable time over the next few months.
What exactly is SAD?
SAD can rear its head, more commonly in the winter months when the light is low and there is a chill in the air. You may have experienced it as the alarm disturbs you on a cold dark morning like a noisy fog horn and you’re hit with a sensation of fatigue and a distinct lack of enthusiasm to do anything other than pull the duvet over your head. People can feel the effects of SAD more strongly than others from mild fatigue to suffering major depressive moods.
Common symptoms of SAD can include:
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Tendency to oversleep and over eat
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
- Decreased sex drive
- Feelings of hopelessness
How can I combat it?
Luckily, there are some positive actions you can take to help relieve the symptoms of SAD and ensure you have a brighter time during the colder months.
Limit alcohol intake: It’s easy to increase the amount of alcohol you drink when it’s cold outside and traditional winter festivities like Christmas will also contribute to this. However, the effects of the morning after will contribute to your SAD enormously, leaving you hungover and feeling somewhat sorry for yourself. It will also limit the chance of you getting outside and into the fresh air as you just won’t have the energy.
Go Cycling: Of course we would say this but there have been studies to prove that cycling or doing any kind of regular physical activity can really help. Continue to cycle into work if you can, this survey showed that those who do feel much more motivated once they get into the office. You should also read our reasons as to why we think cycling in the autumn is awesome!
Eat foods that will give you energy: It’s true what they say, that you are what you eat. Fill your day with lots of green veg, fresh fruit, sources of Omega 3 such as oily fish, flax seeds and walnuts and limit the amount of sugary comforts and heavy carbohydrate meals. Berries such as blueberries and raspberries are also said to have anti-depressant effects on the brain.
Come into the light: We all react positively to natural daylight and during the months when there isn’t a huge amount around it’s key to make the most of it. Draw back the curtains and take a lunch time walk to get as much exposure to natural light as you can. You might also want to consider the option of an artificial light called a dawn simulator which mimics a sunrise and is said to ease you into the day a little more smoothly in the mornings.
Arrange to do things: Don’t withdraw from friends and family and make plans to see people. Perhaps organise a little cycling trip to a new cafe or explore a new hobby. If you are able to, it might be a chance to get out of your home town, book a little trip with some friends and see something new. Having some time off work just to recharge and reset will also do your mind some good. Something to look forward to and to keep you focused will help the season look less like a long tunnel with no respite.
Stay warm: This seems like a no-brainer during the winter months but staying warm can actually lift your mood, according to the NHS, and reduce the risk of common colds and the flu. Keep your house warm and wrap up well so that you can get outside and feel the benefit of fresh air but also be protected from the chill whilst you do it. Invest in some warm winter cycling kit and ride away those seasonal blues!
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