The Winter Blues

This time of year can be magical and joyous and sparkly and happy but for a lot of people, including myself in the past, it can also be miserable and depressing and sad. Literally SAD. I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a very real condition which can affect anyone in the Winter months, when daylight is shorter, darkness creeps in at 4 p.m and ultimately can leave people feeling, well, miserable.

The NHS website states that SAD is often caused when the affects of sunlight and daylight aren’t apparent in parts of the brain called the hypothalamus and causes it to stop working properly. This affects the product of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy and is more apparent in people with SAD) and serotonin (themood hormone, which will be lower in people with SAD). Your genes and circadian rhythm (body clock) can also have an impact. Wow, didn’t think you’d be getting a science lesson today did ya?!

I have an odd experience of SAD because mine showed up the same year I developed anxiety. So thinking back now, it could have been a mixture of both or it could have been due to the fact I couldn’t leave the house because I was too anxious and ill, therefore, that led me to develop SAD because I wasn’t getting any natural light or sun. I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t seeing anyone. The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression: low moods, loss of interest in things, feelings of worthlessness, sleeping more than usual etc. so it’s difficult to differentiate between whether you just have SAD or whether you have depression.

But as always, it’s important to go and see a doctor if you think you’re suffering from either and can’t cope.SAD can’t be cured by lighting a few candles and having a bubble bath. Although those things may make your environment a little nicer or help temporarily, SAD is a real issue that needs to be treated as seriously as depression does. There’s no cure-for-all with SAD and as all mental health conditions, things work differently for everyone. Here are some tips on how to get through the Winter months if they’re getting you down. I’m not a qualified professional, I’m just sharing what helps me. Take it or leave it.

1. Make your indoor “space” somewhere you want to be: So when it’s dark and dingy, you know you have a nice, safe, happy room to be in. This is an instance where nice candles might be useful!

2. Try and get outside at least once a day: when it’s day time. This might be difficult but even if it means going for a walk during your lunch break if that’s the only time available to you to get outside when it’s daylight.

3. Keep your room / house well-lit: Although dim lamps and fairy-lights are cute, if you suffer with SAD, the more light around, the better so maybe switch to a higher voltage bulb during Winter.

4. Practice self-care: And do more of what you enjoy and makes you happy. Have that bubble bath, if it’s going to help for an hour. Take more time to cook your favourite warm, hearty meals, watching your favourite shows, reading books, exercising and spending time with loved ones.

5. Make evening plans: So you don’t associate evenings with dark, dreary, cold Winter nights. Cinema dates, going out for meals or even just for a casual evening drive with your favourite songs blaring. Make dark nights a positive time of day.

6. Take up a new hobby: Something that will take up some time and that you enjoy that can totally immerse you throughout the Winter months.

7. Write things down: Cliché as heck, I know but writing things down really does help. Either a quick sentence how you’re feeling or elaborate paragraphs – just get those feelings out!

8. Make plans for the following year: Especially in Spring and Summer. This will give you something to look forward to and remind you that Winter and the dark days and nights are only temporary.

9. Talk to someone: If you’re struggling, talking to someone about how you’re feeling will always help. Friends, family or if you want to confine in someone anonymous, call the Samaritans.

10. See a doctor: If you’re really struggling and all other options have failed then your port of call is the doctor. Don’t worry about wasting their time either because they will have seen a ton of people all experiencing SAD symptoms.

Have you ever experienced SAD? Do you have any advice for anyone struggling at this time of year? Or any suggestions of anything that will help? Let’s discuss!

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39 thoughts on “The Winter Blues

  1. Eugh SAD is a nightmare, we booked a winter sun holiday this year which ive just got back from and it helped loads. Exercise helps me massively, that’s probably my biggest way of fighting it. Before I left I had conflicting issues the SAD pulling me one way and mania pulling me the other very unpleasant.

  2. I suffer with low mood all year round but my mum has pointed out to me that all my mental health problems seem exacerbated in the dark and cold months, and I do think she’s right. It just feels so much harder to cope when it’s constantly gloomy and freezing. I like your tips though, especially the one about just going outside for a little walk. It’s so easy to get stuck in that cycle of isolating yourself isn’t it?

  3. SAD isn’t really talked about enough and it should be as some people are affected year round. I was working really high in the arctic circle when I fealt it the worst. We’d gone pretty much into darkness minus 2 hours of sunset in the day. There were stars out at 2 o clock. We flew a little south and I got off the plane to the murkiest sky ever but fealt as though it was the first time I’m taken a breathe in months. I know someone who auffers with it badly and he said thats what he feels like all year round especially in April with the changing weather. Great tips- I think lighting that immitates sunlight like candles is definitely best. Take care of yourself xxx

  4. This is an excellent and informative post as always! I have been wondering if I’m suffering with SAD cause I’ve definitely found my mood is a lot lower and I’m sleeping a ridiculous amount lately – I’m basically in the same place you mentioned being in when you were diagnosed with anxiety: not going out, not seeing people etc. But again, as you say, it might just be depression! Fun fun. Your tips are great though, I’m definitely following these to see if I can have a bit more festive cheer! 🙂
    Beth x Adventure & Anxiety

    • Maybe you do have it to some extent? Obviously it’ll vary from person to person but maybe pop back to the docs if it gets too much? Even if it is overlapping with something else (like mine was) always worth talking to someone (: hope you still have a lovely Christmas! xxx

  5. I just get more confused and annoyed that it’s so dark so early haha. But your tips are fab! I definitely think everyone should try and achieve a few of these things on a regular basis not just the darker months… definitely need your own little homey space!

    Claudia xo

  6. The biggest help for me with SAD has been a light box, which produces UV light – just normal lightbulbs don’t really work, and the UV light needs to hit the top of your retina to have an effect. I’d encourage anyone who suffers with SAD to get one and use it from Autumn onwards – it makes a huge difference.

  7. These are such good tips, Jenny. I don’t suffer from SAD, luckily, but I have a couple of friends that (I think) do so I’m going to bookmark this post and tell them about your suggestions. I particularly like one about making evening plans – I think it’s very easy to just shut the door at night and not go out again when it’s cold and dark, but meeting friends, even for just a drink, can really lift my mood. Thank you for sharing X

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    • Awh thanks Lisa I hope they find it helpful! Yeah definitely I think that can apply to a lot of things as well, if you have negative connotations with something trying to turn it around can have a positive mental impact! xxx

  8. I don’t suffer from SAD, but know a few who do. Some great tips to pass on here really helpful post, 💕

  9. I have a feeling that I might have SAD as my behaviour in the winter months drastically change… I’m always tired, get irritated, and everything seems to be 100x worse than it actually is. I would love to try out your tips though, especially creating a cosy corner in my room or something as my house is a mess at the moment.

  10. Winter depression is more common here in WA State because it rains so much! We just moved back from AZ and we hibernated there most of the Summer because of the heat! We really have not seen a lot of rain here yet! We are back with family here so that makes a difference too! I just have to get in the right of frame of mind!

  11. I’ve always know SAD was a thing but i never really thought i was suffering with it until i looked into it more. This is a great post and has given me some good prompts to help my low mood! Thanks! x

  12. Thank you for such a thorough and informative post on SAD. I’d never heard of it before reading your post. I know that I’ve taken a lot away from this post and I know a few people that I could share this with that would really benefit from reading this also. Thanks Jenny 🙂

  13. Thank you for writing such an informative post about SAD – it is so important for things like this to be widely circulated so that people can know whether a doctor’s visit is appropriate or not so good on you for writing such a helpful guide! Making your inside space a nice place to be is such good advice, as is stepping outside when you can, even if it’s not for long!

    Abbey ❄️ http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

  14. I’m so glad I read this post. I think I get SAD every year because as soon as it starts to get dark and cold I just feel awful and really tired and not in a oh boo it’s raining again. Definitely going to try and get out more during the day, especially during my lunch break and take more time for myself. X

  15. It’s such a baffling thing, I’ve experienced it in the past and it is really quite an overwhelming concept that something like darkness and the weather can affect you so much! These are really great tips and are also good for anyone living alone or spending a lot of time alone at this time of year too as it can get you down spending too much time indoors without company!
    Alice Xx
    http://www.blacktulipbeauty.co.uk

  16. So many people experience SAD! I have depression anyway, but I always find that in winter, my depression get’s worse if I don’t see much daylight, which happens often as I have a horrid sleeping pattern. Your tips are so good, the point about going outside cannot be stressed enough! x

    whatevawears.co.uk

  17. I didn’t even know such a word existed. but it is great to put a name on it. I always feel winter a bit sad and depressing because it is dark so early and i feel like i have time for nothing

  18. I’m actually taking a course in university in which we talked about how people living in countries where they don’t get a lot of sunlight are more prone to depression and other mental illness! I learnt a lot more about it after reading this post and since I live in UAE where it’s sunny 90% of the time, I feel like I should definitely be grateful instead of complaining about the heat all the time 😅
    But there are actually there day light lamps they sell on amazon that are made specifically for people who have SAD or living in countries where it gets dark really fast so that could be helpful! Great post’ 💕

  19. Some amazing tips here I’m sure so many people will find incredibly useful. Winter is actually my favourite season so I struggle to understand people who suffer from SAD a lot of the time but it often crosses my mind that people must be having a hard time. I think taking up a new hobby would be great for a lot of people in winter! x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

  20. Helpful read. I have depression but thankfully not SAD. Though I do suffer from depression more once the holidays are over. Mostly because I don’t feel like I have much to look forward to. Lucky for me I’m going on a trip to Italy next March so that will alleviate my seasonal blues I think.

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