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Feeling SAD: How to Beat Winter Blues



21st December- the shortest day of the year. 

It’s that time of the year again. The nights are longer and the days shorter. It’s not unusual to feel unenthusiastic about the colder, darker nights. But for some, this time of year is marked by a continuous low moods or depression and this may be associated with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

We all know the importance of minding our physical health during the winter months but we do also need to look after our mental health at this time.  SADs is something that affects lots of people. So it's helpful to be aware of signs, symptoms and steps to address this  whether for yourself or for someone else in your life. 

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is considered a form of depression that emerges during Autumn and persists through the winter months. Symptoms appear roughly the same time each year.  The  first step is to recognise 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 make a real difference and you will feel the benefit.

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. Being aware of these and taking making some small adjustments in your lifestyle can make a real difference.  Try some of these simple steps to help improve symptoms:

  • Getting more sunlight into your life is key. 
    • Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible. 
    • Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible – even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial.
    • 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.
  • For more information on depression, please see our  depression information pages.

Reach out for support

  • 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. 
  • GP: Speak with your doctor to identify the best support method.  They will be experienced in treating others in the same situation as you.  For some people, therapies such as counselling, medication and/or light therapy may be required to help get through the winter months.  For others, the steps listed above may be all that's needed. 
  • For anyone in crisis, who needs to speak to someone now, call Samaritans (Freephone 116 123) or Pieta (Freephone 1800 247 247). 
  • Voluntary Organisations: organisations such as Aware provide practical information and even run webinars on this topic. See 

Find out more

And 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.  

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