Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a form of depression closely tied to seasonal variations in light. Affecting over half a million people per year, it is particularly common for those who have moved to the UK from sunnier climes. We look at a few ways to prevent or alleviate its symptoms.
Add some light
Try to maximise your natural light exposure by removing blinds and curtains, or moving your desk closer to a window. At home, switch your lightbulbs to ones that simulate natural light.
To give the illusion of longer days, you can keep your lights on longer than usual.
Organising and planning can help relieve the feeling of being “down in the dumps”. Break projects up into smaller tasks that you can accomplish easily. Being productive can help you feel more in control of both your work and your emotions.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood and well-being. To avoid getting stuck to the couch later in the season, commit to a workout routine with a friend.
Along with much-needed endorphins, exercise can also give you a valuable self-esteem boost. Exercise outside, making the most of the daylight hours – go for a walk during your lunch break if there’s no other time in your schedule.
It can be tempting to get under the covers and hibernate with TV series until the sun comes out again. But, apart from staying active, spending time with friends and loved ones is one of the most effective ways to get on top of SAD. Many studies have found that social isolation leads to depression and anxiety, which will only fuel existing SAD symptoms.
Get enough vitamin D
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced naturally when the sun’s rays hit your skin. These levels tend to drop in winter as a result of shorter daylight hours and more time indoors. Light therapy is an effective treatment, but a simple over-the-counter supplement would also help.