If you find yourself struggling in the cold winter months, you’re not alone. It’s normal to find the grey days grim and depressing. However, if you find winter causes you to experience symptoms including persistent low mood, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is often referred to as ‘winter depression’. Symptoms can include loss of pleasure in activities or feelings of despair, irritability and sleepiness. Craving carbohydrates can also be an issue.
SAD is thought to be caused by a lack of sunlight during the winter months. Scientists believe that less sunlight causes the hypothalamus in the brain to stop working properly. This then causes a range of problems including disruptions to your body clock and hormone levels.
How can I feel better?
- Get as much sunlight as you can. Even if it’s cloudy or grey, going for a walk or cycle ride can really boost your mood.
- Try and eat as healthily as possible. When it’s cold we often crave stodgy food, but heavy carbs can cause blood sugar spikes, which then cause you to crash to a low mood. Eat the rainbow by eating lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as plenty of fish.
- Socialise. You may feel like just hiding indoors, but push yourself to meet a friend, even for an hour. Talking to other people (even if it’s just about the Champions League) will help you feel better.
- Try and embrace the season. If possible, make the most of being indoors by trying out some new hobbies, recipes or working your way through some films that you haven’t got around to seeing.
- Take supplements. One of the main sources of vitamin D in our bodies is from sunlight, which we lack exposure to in winter. Taking a vitamin D supplement has been proven to boost mood substantially. Omega 3 supplements can also be beneficial: Iceland has one of the lowest daylight levels in the world, but their high consumption of Omega 3 in fish provides them with an antidepressant effect.
- Seek some support. You can either speak to your GP if your mood is low, or contact mental health services. There are some that you can text if you feel awkward about seeing or speaking to someone. See below for a list of services available.
Contacts/ resources for support
Text the word SHOUT to 85258. Someone will text you back and speak to you via text about how you’re doing.
Call the Samaritans on 116123.
Contact the Calm Zone.
Speak to Parents Online (text service).