At this time of year, the evenings are already perceptibly darker, and colder too. For anyone with a tendency to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) it can be a worrying time, as they know that the long, dark months are rapidly approaching and that they will be vulnerable to a range of symptoms.
Anyone who knows that they are vulnerable to SAD can start to take steps to reduce the impact that the condition will have on their well-being.
- It can be hard to get enough exercise in winter at the best of times, but for people with SAD it’s even harder, because they are likely to experience periods of lethargy and feeling down. Setting up a regular—say, once or twice weekly—session at a local gym or swimming pool now will help you to keep on top of your exercise regime during the winter. Ideally, you will find a friend to go with—it will be more fun, and you will be less likely to skip sessions.
- If you can afford it, it might be a good idea to purchase a lamp designed for light therapy. “SAD lamps” produce bright light that is similar to the light of the sun and daily exposure to one can help with symptoms.
- Pre-plan some fun weekends over the next few months. You don’t have to have SAD to enjoy a weekend away, but social contact during the winter months is especially important for anyone who is inclined towards depression at this time of year. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on trips abroad, but try to set up some excursions over the next few months—say, a day out or weekend away once every six weeks or so—so that you have something to look forward to and so that you know you will be with people who care.
- Stock your freezer with healthy home-made soups and stews. People with SAD often struggle to eat well during the winter months, feel unmotivated about cooking, and can experience weight gain or other dietary issues if they turn to comfort eating as a way to ameliorate their symptoms. If this is a factor for you, pre-stocking your freezer with healthy meals will help you to keep both physically and mentally well during the winter months.
- Before you start experiencing symptoms, it might be a good idea to talk to your GP about supplements that might help you to manage them more easily. For example, some people find that melatonin helps with the sleep disorders associated with SAD, while many people find it useful to take a regular dose of vitamin D. Rather than trying to prescribe supplements for yourself when you are already feeling down, having a calm discussion about what to do now to get yourself ready would be a good idea.
- Consider joining a support group or attending therapy. If the idea of attending a support group appeals to you, it would be wise to look into the options before you start to experience symptoms. Try asking your GP or at your local health clinic or looking online. You may not have attended therapy for your SAD before, but some therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can make a big positive difference, so it’s a good idea to see what sort of therapy is available in your area and/or online.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.
We also wrote an article in 2017 on dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, if you’d like to read further.