Take on Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter

Seasonal Effective Disorder

The clocks are due to go back this Sunday and this inevitably means that dark, gloomy nights are only around the corner. With early nights limiting the amount of sunlight we get; this could have a negative impact on our mood – potentially leading to a mental health problem such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that is most commonly known as the ‘Winter Blues’. Symptoms of SAD include symptoms of depression (i.e., persistent low mood, a lack of interest in daily activities and feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness), however, it is specifically caused by the cold season, where we experience reduced sunlight and engage in limited activities in order to get through the winter months.

Dr Juliet Anton, Chartered Psychologist and founder of new self-help app, AskDoc, shares her insights on how to understand S.A.D and manage the symptoms.

  1. Take in the sunlight.

Whilst sunny weather is a rare sight across the UK in winter, it is still important to head outdoors and take in the fresh air. Winter weather means that people are less inclined to do any activity let alone go out for a walk but, getting enough vitamin D is important in helping you lift your mood. If the weather is dark, rain is downpouring and you can’t bring yourself to head outdoors – – sit near a window whilst working, get it done and out the way earlier on in the day and get it out the way, or go with a friend or family member which might make the activity that bit more fun!

  1. Engage in regular exercise.

Encouraging hormones such as dopamine and endorphins are a fantastic way to lift your mood, especially in the winter. A workout at the gym or yoga class at your local leisure centre are things you can incorporate into your week to ensure that you get your body moving. If cardio isn’t your thing, try a relaxing yoga class or pick up some weights to ease yourself in. Travelling to and from your gym or leisure centre will expose you to the necessary sunlight – even if it’s a lunchtime stroll to your local starbuck for a coffee or meal. Getting your blood pumping is an incredibly effective way to ease a low mood and will leave you feeling more positive as you tackle the remaining day.

  1. Eat the rainbow.

When sunshine is in short supply, infusing your diet with some healthy choices is a great way to give your mood a boost. Citrus fruits can help us to feel refreshed while green vegetables give us an influx of iron and energy – perfect for when you feel lethargic. Whilst you may struggle to feel motivated to cook after a long day at work, cooking is a great distraction and a way to destress, so have fun creating new recipes and treat cooking dinner as a form of self-care. Don’t forget the Vitamin D that we would otherwise get from sunlight – be it foods or supplements, make sure to include Vitamin D in your diet during winter months.

  1. Use cognitive behavioural therapy.

It’s not uncommon for people to keep calm and carry on, often ignoring our mental health problems and leaving them to stack up. That said, it is important to get help when you need it and when you feel most comfortable. Much like the rest of our body, when our brain is in pain, its helpful to get some help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist. The AskDoc app aims to normalise seeking help even when you haven’t considered it in the past and would like to talk to psychologist but don’t feel ready. The depression course on this app uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you on your journey. CBT encourages you to understand your difficulties in terms of thoughts, emotions and behaviours; and it gives you skills and techniques to help you manage your difficulties in your own way.

  1. Try a light box.

Bright light therapy is considered a very effective for battling S.A.D. Sitting in front of a light box for around 20 to 30 minutes a day can help encourage a chemical change in your brain that boosts your mood which in turn, addresses symptoms of SAD. Safe to use and widely available, a bit of light therapy may help you feel braver and brighter on your chilly winter commute to work.

And there you have it, five tips and techniques to help you tackle Seasonal Affective Disorder and improve your mood over the winter period. Remember it is never okay to suffer alone and getting help is crucial to help support your mental health and wellbeing.

The AskDoc app is available to download for free through the Apple Store (for iPhone) and Google Play (for Android), with access to free specialist courses from an expert psychologist. Users can also benefit from an optional £5 subscription to the Depression Forum once the course has been completed.

For more information, please visit www.askdoc.com
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