The holiday season is a time to be merry. Right? For some, however, it is quite the opposite. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression experienced during particular seasons and a recognised mental health disorder, is out in force during the winter months.
Give our 10 top tips for coping with SAD and depression a try and lets make the holiday season a time to be merry again.
1. Remember, you’re not alone
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of us, all across the UK and Europe. It's easy to think that you're just feeling “winter blues”, but SAD is real and it is treatable. There really is no reason to feel ashamed of not being okay and using the right techniques and treatments, your mood can improve and you can learn to cope.
2. Start with a happy tummy
The symptoms of SAD can be fought by eating simple carbs, protein and vitamins D and B12. Yes, you read that correctly: Pasta and potatoes can combat depression! Now you have even more reason to eat those tasty carbs. Just don't forget your fruits and vegetables.
Some of us might suffer from low appetite due to SAD, leading to low energy levels. Make sure to eat regularly and that you eat balanced meals, this will give you the energy required to make it through the day.
3. Take a walk
The body and mind are closely linked and having a healthy body can help keep mental health issues at bay, including SAD. Something as simple as taking a walk for an hour each day can make a big difference in your mood. Get some fresh air and go for a nice stroll, but don't forget to wrap up in warm clothing.
4. Get as much light as you can
Since the winter months bring reduced natural sunlight, it is important to let as much of it in as you can. Sitting near the window, or taking a walk during the day will help. Don't worry if it's cloudy, natural light is still coming through the clouds and you will still see the benefits of daylight.
Using a light box could also work if you find it hard to get enough natural light. Light boxes simulate sunlight causing your brain to release serotonin, and if used regularly, light therapy's benefits accumulate overtime. Since evidence of light box effectiveness is mixed, you should talk to your GP first. Light boxes are not available on the NHS, but Seasonal Affective Disorder Association approved light boxes can be found online.
5. Laugh and spend time with friends and family
Spending time with the people you care about and who make you happy is a fantastic way of lifting your mood. With the festive season getting closer, meet up with friends and family, and make the most of the occasion.
6. Challenge your thoughts
Our feelings are linked to how we approach the situation that we are in. If you're feeling negative, think about why you think this way. If you look at your situation from a different viewpoint, it could change how you feel about it. Challenge your thoughts!
7. Avoid stress through planning
For some people, the winter months can be filled with stress, and stress can make the symptoms of SAD overwhelming. Plan ahead to remove or reduce any causes of stress, while ensuring to set aside some "me time" to let yourself unwind and relax.
8. Don't be afraid to seek help
You don't need to cope with SAD or depression alone. Talk to your GP. They can advise you and offer services to help. Asking for help is not weakness, it takes strength to recognise and admit that you might need it.
Depression and SAD can often be treated with antidepressants, and can be effective if taken through winter until the spring. Make sure to consult your GP for more information before taking antidepressants.
10. Embrace the festive season
Think about all the things you love about winter. Remember everything in winter that makes you happy. It could be as simple as a warm fire and sitting nice and warm, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, or pestering friends and colleagues with Christmas songs. While the winter months can be tough for mental health, there’s plenty of joy to be had too. Think about Christmas cheer and warm nights in by the fire to help you through the season.