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Do You Slow Down During Winter?

Published on 7th September 2018

During the winter time everything slows down – most trees and plants stop growing, animals hibernate, even cars don’t like starting in the frosty winter months!  If you feel as though you are slowing down too much then it could be that you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

An astonishing 29% of the population are affected by SAD, with symptoms usually starting early in September as the season changes and continuing throughout the winter months.  For people who are affected by seasonal depression, the start of the autumn season can fill them with dread.  Whilst the severity of SAD can vary from person to person, for many who are affected symptoms can severely impact their daily lives.

If you notice that the onset of winter sees you experiencing some of the following symptoms, then you may well be affected by SAD.  These are the top 5 most commonly reported SAD symptoms:

  1. Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy doing:  are you finding it more difficult to motivate yourself to take part in your favourite sports?  Or perhaps you are not socialising or seeing your friends as much.
  2. Your sleep habits have drastically changed:  are you getting too much or too little sleep?  Drastic changes in sleeping habits can be a red flag that you have SAD.
  3. You are finding it difficult to concentrate:  are you finding it more difficult to make decisions?  Lack of concentration can make it harder for you to remember things.  SAD can affect your normal daily functioning in negative ways.
  4. Loss of appetite:  are even your favourite foods failing to give you an appetite?  Perhaps you feel your food has become tasteless and bland?  This is another sign of SAD and can leave you feeling weak and lethargic.
  5. Experiencing feelings of anxiety:  when associated with certain situations, such as visiting the dentist, anxiety is a normal human reaction.  However, all-consuming anxiety that is unrelated to an event is a very different matter.  If anxiety is interfering with your daily life, then you may well be suffering from SAD.

So, apart from hibernating until the spring arrives, how can SAD sufferers help themselves through the long winter months?  One of the key aspects appears to be developing coping strategies as early in the season as you can so that you have things in place to help you.  Using some of these self-care methods can really make a difference:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):  CBT is based on the premise that the way we think and behave impacts the way we feel.  Changing the way we think about situations and what we do about them can help you feel better about them.
  • Mindfulness:  helps you to live in the present moment so that you can stand back from your thoughts and notice when they are taking over.  It helps you to realise that you can learn not to “latch on” to negative thoughts, thereby minimising their influence on your mood. 
  • Get as much sunlight as possible:  a brief walk at lunchtime can help.  Even just 20 minutes spent outside during daylight hours can boost your serotonin levels which makes a big difference to your overall mood.  If you spend long periods indoors, try sitting near a window so that you are getting some natural light.
  • Take regular exercise:  exercising outdoors is particularly good and regular exercise has long been used to help combat depression.
  • Take steps to manage your stress levels:  don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues, friends and family.  Try and minimise your exposure to stressful situations where possible.
  • Buy a “light box”:  light therapy can be particularly effective, especially when used first thing in the morning.  Special light boxes or lamps, which mimic natural daylight, can help manage your SAD.  As little as 12 minutes per day can make a difference.

Having a greater awareness of SAD and the symptoms associated with it can help you to notice the signs earlier, thereby allowing you to deal with them more effectively.  Lessening the daily impact of SAD can help to make the winter much more bearable for those who are affected.


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