How to deal with seasonal depression
Turn your winter blues into brighter days21st Jun 2022
Winter may not be everyone’s favourite time of year, but that’s not to say the colder days can’t be endured with a more positive outlook.
We speak to medical experts and unpack the best tips on how to deal with the winter blues.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – also known as seasonal depression – is a type of depression that is experienced at certain times within the year. It can affect between 0.5% and 3% of the general population, with these individuals feeling the impact of changes in weather or temperature in either winter or summer.
Some people feel less comfortable during the winter months and struggle to find the same motivation they have at other times in the year. Some also endure a change in mood, or even a change to their sleeping and eating patterns.
What are the symptoms to look out for?
There are many different symptoms experienced by people with seasonal affective disorder, and the season itself can largely impact an individual’s emotions.
According to Psychology Today, hypersomnia, fatigue, and irritability may all be signs of SAD. Alongside a change in appetite or weight gain; a drop in energy levels or decreased physical activity; or perhaps even avoiding social situations with an increased sensitivity to social rejection.
These symptoms occur at a similar time each year and can vary in severity – everyone’s experience is likely to vary.
How to get on top of being SAD
Michele Carelse, CEO of online health and wellness retailer Feelgood Health, explains: ‘There are various reasons why one might be prone to SAD, but it essentially always boils down to the lack of sunlight.
‘Biological clocks are directly affected by light. When someone has less exposure to sunlight, such as in winter, their biological clock shifts. This internal clock regulates mood, hunger, sleep, and hormones.’
Michele explains that while most symptoms will generally improve on their own, there are ways to speed up this process:
- Phototherapy: Use a special therapy lamp, such as those sold by BIOPTRON – this can help to reduce SAD symptoms.
- Consider using natural antidepressants. These can be taken either alone or alongside light therapy. Michele advises speaking to a medical professional prior to taking any dosage.
- Taking essential oils can help you cope with SAD. Aromatherapy targets the area of the brain responsible for mood. Oils such as bergamot, cardamom, and jasmine often work well.
- Vitamin D supplements can help as they address the deficiency which may cause SAD. If possible, Michele suggests taking these at least a month or two before autumn begins to get the best results.
- Take up exercise. Exercise can help with treating SAD. Maintaining a good level of exercise and a healthy balanced diet should boost both mood and energy levels throughout winter. Try downloading an app, such as Strava or None To Run, to keep you on track, especially if you’re a beginner.
- Spend time in nature. Getting more sunlight can help to improve any symptoms caused by a lack of this. Even if you only feel like venturing outside for 10 minutes a day, this is still better than no time at all! Perhaps taking your dog along with you or try a new podcast whilst walking. This could make your ‘me time’ even better.
Brighter days are coming
Winter months can be brightened with a few simple lifestyle changes. Try ditching an hour of your duvet day for an hour outside – whether that be walking, running, or maybe even just reading in your garden, find what works best for you.
Ensure you seek medical advice if you have any further concerns about your health and well-being.