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Feeling SAD: How to Beat Winter Blues

It’s that time of the year again. The clocks have gone back.  The days are shorter and the weather is getting colder. Feeling less than enthused about the colder, darker nights is common. But for some experiencing continuous low moods during Winter may be associated with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Due to COVID19 restrictions and lockdowns, this winter may be even more challenging than usual and for more people. So, it’s a good idea to recognise this potential and take steps to maintain your wellbeing through the winter months.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that emerges during Autumn and persists through the winter months. It is considered to be a form of depression where symptoms are limited to roughly the same times each year.

The direct cause of SAD remains unconfirmed. But, there are some factors which are widely known to contribute to it. 

What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Depressed mood, low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Feeling angry, irritable, stressed, or anxious
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Reduced libido
  • Use of drugs or alcohol for comfort
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair
  • Suicidal ideation (Call your doctor ASAP)

 

 

How to relieve SAD

There are a number of simple things you can try that may help improve your symptoms:

  • Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible – even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial
  • Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible
  • Sit near windows when you’re indoors
  • Take plenty of regular exercise, particularly outdoors and in daylight
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Avoid using phones / technology before bed
  • Meditation / deep breathing exercises
  • If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress.

Reach out for support

In some cases, further support, such as counselling, medication and/or light therapy may be required to help you get through the winter months. If you feel that you may be affected by SAD, speak with your doctor as soon as possible to identify best support method.

If you are in suicidal crisis or require information on mental health supports and services during this time, please visit the dedicated HSE website page here. For information, tips and guides, about Minding your Mental Health during this outbreak of COVID-19, see the HSE’s dedicated web page here

  • For anyone in crisis, if you need help now, Samaritans (Freephone 116 123) and Pieta House (Freephone 1800 247 247) are maintaining services. Please click here for additional crisis helplines.
  • If you have self-harmed or injured yourself and require urgent medical attention now, please call 999 or 112 or visit your Accident & Emergency Department. 

 

For more information on how to protect your mental health during lockdown, please see here:

 

For more information on depression, please see our depression self help guide.