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It get’s dark about 5pm, it rains a lot, it’s cold and Christmas is over but it’s still Winter. It’s only natural that you’d get the Winter blues. But, some people get it more than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D is a very real thing. It’s not a particularly unknown mental illness but sometimes it needs a little more recognition. It can be a difficult thing to notice in a person, especially when they often seem so happy to you. Their happiness seems to depend on the sun and the winter months can be a really difficult time.
What is it really?
It’s a type of depression that can be caused by a lack of exposure to the sun. In the winter months, not only are we affected by the shorter days but by how much time we spend inside. Lack of sunlight affects a part of your brain that controls your body clock, your mood, appetite, sleep patterns and your sleepiness (caused by a hormone called melatonin). S.A.D is probably more common than you think. A lack of sunlight can affect everyone, just to different degrees… hence the term ‘Winter Blues’.
What are the symptoms?
Well, S.A.D tends to come with typical symptoms of depression such as reduced appetite, libido and lack of sleep. It’s also associated with our desire to hibernate. It means a tendency to crave carbs, sweets, comfort food. It could mean weight gain. I guess that explains why Christmas dinner is so satisfying.
How do I deal with it?
Unfortunately, S.A.D is a recurring thing due to the recurring of winter itself. For those affected a little more seriously, there are some measures you can take such as light therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy or taking medication such as anti-depressants or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.
However, for those who don’t want to go to the trouble of medication and therapy, here are a few ways to make yourself a little cheerier during the winter months.
- Exercise: We always hear that exercise is the key to everything from exam stress to feeling a bit down, but, honestly, there is a reason why we hear it all the time
- Make like a cat and find a sunny spot in your house. Sit there with your phone, a book, your laptop and let yourself absorb the warmth. If a lack of sunlight is the cause, finding sunlight is the obvious cure. Try and go for a short walk when it stops raining to grab the rays of sun whilst you can. Too cold? Grab a hot chocolate and wrap up warm. Take a friend.
- Do what your body is telling you to do and go to sleep. Stop waiting for notifications or emails. Turn off your phone and nap in the middle of the day. Cut yourself some slack.
- Treat Yourself. It’s cold and you’re really feeling those winter blues so you have the perfect excuse to grab some retail therapy, make yourself a hot chocolate, binge watch your favourite show.
And if none of that works, go to the Stags, have a pint and wait for it all to blow over.