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Feeling SAD: How to Beat Winter Blues

It’s that time of the year again. We’re approaching the shortest day of the year.  The nights are longer and the temperature has plummeted. It’s pretty normal to feel less than enthusiastic about the colder, darker nights. But for some of us, this time of year is marked by continuous low moods or depression which may be associated with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

As it’s our second winter living with Covid 19 restrictions, this winter may be even more challenging than usual for many. So, it’s a good idea to be aware of this and to take steps to maintain your wellbeing through the remaining winter months. And also to look out for signs that friends or loved ones may be struggling at this time of year.

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.

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, ring a helpline or get into your local A&E)

 

 

How to relieve SAD

The direct cause of SAD remains unconfirmed. But, there are some factors which are widely known to contribute to it.  This really can make a difference.   And so, there some 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. Sleep is important. And the blue light from tech can affect this badly.
  • Meditation / deep breathing exercises. Not for you? Go on, give it a go 🙂
  • If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress. Easier said than done, we know. But we’ve some good tips in our 3Ts information page on Stress here.
  • Our 3Ts Self Help Library contains valuable information and guides on understanding and managing a broad range of mental health conditions including Depression, Stress, Anxiety and many more. Easy to follow and available to read, download or listen in audio.

So the first step is recognising that you may be struggling.  Consider your lifestyle and try to identify some of the areas listed above where you could make small changes.  That can really make a difference.

Reach out for support

We also recommend you speak with your doctor as soon as possible to identify best support method.  They will be experienced in treating others in the same situation as you.  In some cases, further support, such as counselling, medication and/or light therapy may be required to help you get through the winter months.

There are also excellent voluntary organisations such as Aware who provide practical information and even run webinars on this topic.  See www.aware.ie.  So remember, you’re not alone in this.  It affects so many people and help is readily available through your own lifestyle changes, with the help of your GP or through one of the many voluntary organisations or helplines.  

If you are in suicidal crisis or require information on mental health supports and services, see:

  • 3Ts Need Help section for Crisis Helpline & Specialist Support listings, practical information, videos and guides.
  • Aware www.aware.ie.
  • 3Ts Self Help Library
  • Visit the dedicated HSE Supports & Services page here.
  • HSE mental health information website Minding your Mental Health
  • 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 depression, please see our depression self help guide.