If the colder weather and shorter days are causing you to feel the winter blues, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon this time of the year, to experience fatigue, sadness, difficulty concentrating, and a disruption in your sleep schedule.
It’s thought the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK. (That’s at least one in 15!!!!!)
It can affect people of any age, including children.
Key symptoms include :
- sleep problems
- feeling down and unsociable
For some, this mood change is temporary and easily managed with lifestyle modifications. But for others, the winter blues can turn into a more severe type of depression called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. The good news? There are things you can do to beat the winter blues.
Winter Blues vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder
The main difference between the winter blues and SAD has to do with severity and function. It’s just like “sadness” vs. “depression.”
- Sadness during the fall and winter months
- Some trouble sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Severe sadness during the fall and winter months
- Frequent sleep and eating issues
- Depression that limits normal functioning and motivation
If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
SO HOW CAN WE COMBAT THOSE WINTER BLUES FEELINGS?
– Keep fit and stay active
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.
If you’re looking at beating the winter blues, exercise can have mood-lifting effects that are as good as taking antidepressant medication. In fact research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.
Try the 10x10x10 Rule
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, lethargic, and unmotivated to exercise when feeling depressed. So, instead of committing to one longer workout, break the time up into chunks.
For example, if your goal is to walk 30 minutes a day, divide the time into three mini-workouts of 10-minutes each. One walk in the morning, another in the early afternoon, and one before it gets dark.
– Get outside
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
– Keep warm
Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half.
Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes, and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
– Eat healthily
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
– See the light
Some people find light therapy effective for seasonal depression. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day.
Light boxes give out very bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.
Another idea is to use a dawn simulator [a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, that mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually] as well as a light box to enhance the beneficial effect
– Keep Up Your Sleep Routine
Sleep is a huge component of mood. Without adequate, regular sleep, psychologist Kelly Donahue, PhD, says our circadian rhythm can get disrupted, which also disrupts our cortisol rhythms and impacts hormone production.
Here are a few tips Donahue recommends to improve your sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Follow a simple bedtime routine that signals rest, such as taking a bath, turning down the lights, or drinking a cup of herbal tea
- Expose yourself to light as soon as you wake up
- Sleep in a cool, dark room
- Don’t use electronics in your bedroom
- Write all of your worry thoughts on a piece of paper before bed so that if you wake up in the night, you can tell your mind you don’t need to worry because the thoughts are captured on paper and will be waiting for you to tackle in the morning .
– Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD,. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
– See your friends and family
It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues.There are so many ways to keep in touch now so make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about .
– Talk it through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. .
– Do some early spring cleaning
Light-sensitive cells at the back of the eyes have connections to the body’s internal clock, at the front of the brain.
The body clock may be disrupted in winter, contributing to SAD, so trim the hedges and clean the windows to maximise how much natural light makes it into the home.
Dirty glass will stop 20% of the energising light that would otherwise enter the room.
– Take a Break From the News
Being indoors more often means an increase in screen time. And if this time is spent consuming a non-stop news cycle, you may feel an increase in the winter blues.
To help minimize stress, sadness, and despair from the news, especially as it relates to COVID-19, try to limit the amount of time you spend in front of a screen. If possible, schedule one hour for news. You can watch this in one sitting or break it up into chunks.
And remember Seek help
If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical hel