Now it may come as a surprise to you (given my Australian roots and all) but I flipping LOVE the cold. That’s part of the reason why I left down under in the first place: as a self-confessed sweaty bitch, I thrive in Winter. The cute outfits, the hearty meals, cozy nights in and the months where I admittedly drink more red wine than water – I love it all.
But with the colder months brings the dreaded winter blues. And it’s a real thing, people! Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression (recognised by the NHS) that comes and goes with the seasons. Symptoms can include feeling lethargic, increased irritability, feeling low/helpless/worthless, loss of interest in sex/physical contact and sudden increase in appetite (particularly craving carbohydrates).
While it doesn’t affect everyone, it is extremely common, with reportedly 1 in 3 Brits displaying symptoms of SAD. The more we talk openly about it, the more normalised this form of depression will become, and it’s nothing to feel ashamed about. You’re not alone and I’m here to share with you a range of proven methods to help you beat the winter blues.
How to beat those Winter blues?
There are a range of treatments available for SAD and if you’re struggling to cope, I always recommend visiting your GP who can carry out an assessment and get you the help you need. There’s an amazing guide here via Mind with everything you need to know about seeking help with a mental health problem.
Self-care is an important part of treatment and the following five methods can help the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
1. Light up your life
It’s often recommended to try and get as much natural sunlight as possible. However, that’s not really realistic when you work 9-5. Chances are you are waking up and commuting to and from your desk in darkness and who can remember the last time you actually had a lunch break, am I right?
Here’s where light therapy can help. In particular, using a dawn simulator will help you start your day right. A dawn simulator can be used in place of an alarm clock. They mimic sunlight and wake you up with gradual light, just like the sun – rather than being ripped from your peaceful slumber by your dreaded phone’s default alarm tone, surrounded by a dark abyss. Sound familiar?
I’ve been using the Casper Glow Light (kindly gifted) for the past few weeks and have already noticed a drastic difference in my mood in the AM. Not only am I waking up to a room filled with a warm glow, but I’m also starting my day well-rested. What I love about these Glow Lights by Casper is that you can also use them to unwind in the evenings too, using their self-dim setting that helps create a relaxing ambient mood in your bedroom. They’re incredibly light, small and portable – which means I can take them with me on trips abroad to ensure I’m consistently waking up with a smile on my dial, no matter what country I’m in.
Sitting in front of a lightbox for just 30 minutes each day will help stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress its natural release of melatonin, which will keep you from feeling drowsy. Keep one at your desk at work to help you stay on task and feeling motivated.
2. It’s all about the D
Another way to address a serious Vitamin D deficiency (other than booking a flight to the Canary Islands) would be to stock up on supplements. And let’s be honest, supplements are a much more budget-friendly way to tackle SAD. Vitamin D supplements will encourage the production of serotonin which helps boost your happy hormones so you can avoid those inconsistent moods often associated with SAD.
You can get a year’s supply for only a tenner, and while you’re at it you may as well stock up on Fish Oil tablets. Most studies are showing that Omega-3s may be helpful in treating some forms of depression, by improving the functioning of cells in the brain and blood.
3. Feed your mind
If you’re not keen on supplements, as for some it can be a hard pill to swallow (quite literally). Another way to include Omega-3s in your diet is to consume more fish, especially salmon, trout, tuna, and shellfish. Vegetarian? No worries – add a sprinkle of chia seeds to your next salad or smoothie.
I know it’s tempting to order something beige or greasy from Deliveroo when it’s sub-zero temps outside. However, if you make sure you’re eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit and lean proteins, you’ll be getting the right nutrients to help keep your energy and immune system boosted.
4. Pump it up
Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. We already know that. What’s hard is that during these colder months we often lack the motivation to be active. Running when there’s black ice on the roads? That’s a big nope. Walking to the gym in arctic winds? Double nope. It’s important to find realistic alternatives in Winter that suit your schedule.
Try doing a Youtube workout in our lounge room. Even better, here’s an entire workout you can do from your bed (and no, I’m not talking about sex, but that certainly counts too!). If you don’t feel up for pumping iron, try this 30 day Yoga challenge. Research has shown that even a 15-minute walk in the middle of the day is enough to increase your dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which help energise the brain. Move your bodies ladies, it’s really a no-brainer.
5. Love thyself
Treat yoself! Not to a shopping spree or an espresso martini, treat yourself to a round of self-love.
Self-love can make a huge difference in our wellness and happiness and the best thing is that it takes shape in many different ways. A hot bath can do wonders, especially with a few drops of essential oils – aromatherapy can influence the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite, helping with seasonal disorder.
Decrease screen-time and increase the time spent doing what makes you happy! Whether that’s spending time with loved ones, catching up on Great British Bake Off, doing a face mask or reconnecting with nature. Trust me, you’ll feel better for it.
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