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Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Deal With It

by Louise W. Rice
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Some people love the winter because it gives them a chance to do skiing, snowboarding or other seasonal sports. Others hate it — and with good reason because the change in season can cause them to feel more fatigued. This may be because they’re experiencing a disorder known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), also known as “winter depression,” but what is this disorder?

What is SAD?

SAD is a form of depression that people feel at certain times of the year. Some seasons or certain types of weather may cause it. The symptoms of SAD tend to be more severe during the winter, which is why people sometimes refer to it as winter depression.

It’s not unusual, however, for people to experience the symptoms of SAD during the summer and feel better during winter, rather than worse. People experience the disorder in different ways. Common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, guilt or helplessness
  • General tearfulness
  • Difficulty sleeping or waking up
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Changes in appetite
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Additional symptoms of depression such as lack of self-confidence or of pleasure in things you’d normally enjoy in life

How to combat winter depression and fatigue

It is possible to stave off that winter sluggishness, however. Here are some suggestions on how to keep it at bay and remain feeling good:

Allow the sunlight to come in

Since the days get shorter and shorter in winter, your sleep cycle and hormones may suffer disruptions. This lack of sunlight causes your brain to produce more melatonin, which makes you feel sleepier.

So try to get outdoors into the natural light as much as possible, even if it’s just for a lunchtime walk. Make sure your workplace, whether you work from home or in someone else’s office, is light and airy. Once you get home, open your blinds and curtains to let the light pour in as much as possible.

Sleep well at night

If you want to fight off winter fatigue, a solid, uninterrupted sleep is essential. How comfortable is your mattress? A hard mattress can make it difficult to sleep at night. If your mattress is unsuitable, check out the Divan Beds Centre and find one that’s more comfortable or which accommodates your habitual sleeping position better.

Take exercise regularly

On a cold, dark winter evening, you might feel like doing anything but exercising. However, fight past the resistance. You’ll be surprised at how much more energy you have afterward when you do a little exercise. Aim for 150 minutes a week of exercise.

Note, too, that exercising in the late afternoon can help you to lessen early-evening fatigue and also to sleep better. Why not make the most of the winter to try a new form of exercise? You don’t have to exercise outdoors. Five-a-side football and badminton are two sports you could play indoors.

Keep your weight healthy

It’s possible to feel extraordinarily tired if you’re obese or weigh more than average. Fortunately, you don’t have to stay that way. A chat with your GP will help you form a healthy meal plan and acquire some tips on keeping your weight healthy.

Be aware that being underweight can also affect your energy levels. Again, you should look into your diet and make sure you’re observing a balanced diet, especially since the summer has ended and you may have ditched salads and other healthy options in favor of starchy foods such as pasta and potatoes.

Making sure you get plenty of exposure to sunlight, exercise, eat right and keep your weight in check are all simple, achievable ways to combat SAD and prevent unhappiness from kicking in. Learning meditation, yoga, breathing techniques and mindfulness methods are all further ways to beat the winter blues. If you still struggle, however, you should consult a GP or mental health specialist for further advice.

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