It’s starting to get chilly outside and the nights are drawing in, which makes me think of one thing: the winter blues. I enjoy a crisp winter’s day, but what we often get in the UK is rain, darkness, and more rain, separated by brief interludes of snow. The snow is probably the worst for me as I seem to turn into Bambi on ice! It’s really no wonder so many of us suffer with seasonal depression.
I suffer with a couple of chronic health conditions alongside my anxiety, so I try to remember to take extra care of myself in winter and wrap up warm. I know that many people suffer with full blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can make the winter months an added struggle.
So, what are the symptoms of SAD?
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Sleep problems – finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Craving carbs and gaining weight
With this in mind; I’ve decided to face winter with a plan of action to try and prevent myself from feeling too crappy. Here are my tips for coping with SAD and seasonal depression.
Hunt down that sunshine
This one’s a biggie. Exposure to natural light – particularly in the morning, resets your body clock. This will help you get a good night’s sleep which is essential for feeling your best. So why not go for an early walk? Arm yourself with a hat, scarf and gloves and get some exercise to set yourself up for the day. If you don’t always have the time, you could try a SAD lamp, which is essentially a light box that stimulates your brain to improve your mood.
I know, I know, everyone always suggests going for a walk, but sometimes the simplest advice is the best. I need to motivate myself to get into this habit, as I often feel anxious about going out and try to avoid it.
Next up, remember to take your vitamin D supplements. In the UK, parts of Europe and North America the winter sun isn’t strong enough to provide you with enough vitamin D, which can leave you feeling tired and under the weather. Taking a quality supplement will combat this. I have found the Better You oral vitamin D spray a game changer. You absorb the supplement through the mucous membrane in your mouth, rather than your digestive system – which can be difficult for people like me with gut issues such as IBS.
Connect with nature
I try to connect with the natural world and see the beauty of the change in seasons. You don’t have to be a great explorer, just look out into your garden or wherever you live and try to observe your surroundings. You could even get creative with it and try painting a winter scene or incorporating photography into your walks.
I enjoy feeding the birds as I know it helps them survive the cold winter months. It makes me thankful for my snacks and central heating. I fill up my bird feeder and watch out for the robins, sparrows and the odd squirrel!
Reach out to others
There are always going to be days when you feel low and dreary, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. It’s easy to hide away and isolate yourself without really thinking, I know because I do it myself. But meeting up with someone and sharing how you feel can make you feel so much better. Give the people closest to you a call or try making some new friends – have a google to find out what social groups are in your area. Remember there are people out there that understand how you are feeling.
If you can’t get out and about, try searching for online communities such as on Instagram or Facebook groups.
Look after yourself
If you’re having a bad day and nothing seems to be working, then that’s okay, try to remember that the low feeling will eventually pass. If you’re anything like me, you might feel that you’re at your best when you’re being productive. But sometimes you need to stop and take care of yourself – so have that nap, watch a movie, or wrap up in a blanket with a good book – you deserve it!
Remember if you’re really struggling your GP is there to help you. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment and have a chat with them. I’ve also included some links below if you would like to find out more about Seasonal Affective Disorder.