Across the nation, people are picking at the turkey leftovers and wondering how Christmas came and went so fast – again.
Between those feelings of emptiness (in the emotional rather than gastronomic sense of the word), the colder weather, shorter days and darker nights, many of us want to stay in and get cosy and slowly turn into the pigs in blankets we’ve all been gorging on until it’s safe to stop hibernating come Spring.
Experiencing these winter blues are completely normal, but for some, this can develop into something more.
If you’re sleeping more than usual, experiencing feelings of anxiety or lethargy, you may have SAD – most people will get these symptoms in winter.
Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD is a type of depression which typically comes and goes with the seasons.
UNILAD spoke with Stuart Haydock, a Resilience Lead Psychologist from Bupa UK, about recognising this condition and how to tackle it.
Haydock explained the symptoms of SAD ‘usually begin in early September each year’.
They may be triggered by low levels of daylight as autumn sets in. Your low mood may then disappear in the spring, usually around April, as the amount of daylight increases.
The symptoms you may experience are similar to how you feel when you have depression.
You might feel fatigued, irritated or anxious and struggle to do things like getting out of bed?
You may notice a change in your sleeping pattern and be sleeping more than usual?
Stuart said it’s possible to get SAD in summer, but this is ‘less common’.
Having SAD can have a serious effect on your life; you may feel like withdrawing from your family and friends and experience suicidal thoughts.
Experts like Stuart all stress the importance of speaking to a friend, family member or GP about how you’re feeling.
He continued to offer advice for those wanting to help someone overcome SAD, saying:
Recognising SAD in a friend or loved one can be difficult, too. They may still go out on nights out and socialise, but might not be enjoying themselves.
They may also have reduced concentration, perhaps in university or in their job?
It’s important to speak to them if you notice any changes.
Try to encourage them to speak to their GP about how they’re feeling, as there’s treatment available that can help.
Stuart told UNILAD knowing how to deal with SAD can be ‘difficult’, so learning how to manage the symptoms is important.
There are treatment options available, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressants – these are similar to treatment for depression.
Your GP might suggest you try light therapy too, which has been known to ease symptoms – this involves sitting close to or working near an artificial light box – it mimics the effects of sunlight during darker winter months.
You can buy one yourself, however, you should speak to your GP first, this way, they can advise you on which one is best-suited for you.
Stuart concluded by offering a few suggestions for managing SAD yourself at home.
Take advantage of natural light:
If you work indoors, make sure you’re exposing yourself to as much natural light as you can.
Try going for a walk on your break and if this isn’t an option, keep any curtains and blinds open.
Exercise and eat well:
While you may not feel like it, exercising regularly will release mood-boosting hormones – endorphins – which can help reduce any symptoms of SAD.
Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, too.
All of these things can help boost your mood and make you feel better.
Dealing with SAD can be difficult, so talking to someone can make it easier to cope.
It’s easy to cancel your plans with your friends and embark on a Netflix binge, but Stuart says it’s important to ‘try to keep up socialising’.
It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated either; you could suggest going for dinner or a walk?
There are also lots of people who have SAD too, according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), the UK’s only non-commercial support organisation for SAD.
For about 21 per cent of the UK population, some of the symptoms of SAD cause discomfort and a noticeable change in mood, but not serious suffering – this is called ‘Sub-syndromal SAD’ or the ‘Winter Blues’.
For a further eight per cent, SAD is a much more serious illness, which prevents normal function without appropriate treatment, SADA claims, offering lots of advice about where to find like-minded people to talk to on their forums.
UNILAD also found out how Samaritan’s can offer a listening ear over the holidays and beyond:
Invisible illnesses are as cruel as the cold winter weather and although it may look and feel pretty bleak outdoors, it’s good to remember you’re not alone in finding this time of year difficult.
For more information, visit BUPA UK.
If any of the issues raised have affected you – or you need help coping with depression – you can call Samaritans free anytime, from any phone, anonymously, on 116 123.