The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:
· sleep problems
· feeling down and unsociable
Symptoms tend to start in September and are worse when the days are shorter (in December, January and February).
What causes SAD?
The cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked to reduced exposure to light.
It can affect people anywhere in the northern and southern hemispheres, and certainly throughout Europe, including Spain. The only place SAD is rare is within 30 degrees of the equator, where daylight hours are long and extremely bright.
Shaking of the SADness
Everyone’s affected differently by SAD, so what works for one person won’t for another. But there’s usually something that will help, so don’t give up if the first remedy you try doesn’t work. Just keep trying.
1. Keep active
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.
2. Get outside
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on bright days. Inside your home, choose pale colours which reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
3. Keep warm
Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
4. Eat healthily
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Vitamin D is also recommended.
5. Lighten up
Light therapy can be effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day.
Light boxes give out very bright light which is at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.
6. Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD. It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
7. See your friends and family
It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits.
8. Talk it through
Talking treatments, such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms.
9. Join a support group
Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it's like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable.
10. Seek help
If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.