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Seasonal Affective Disorder : The Winter Blues

25th June 2016

It is well known that living in countries in far northern and southern hemispheres like the Falklands can affect our mood due to the low levels of sunlight we are exposed to during the winter months. Up to 10% of the population may be affected by the winter blues. If we are busy throughout the day and if we work indoors we may never see natural light from sunrise till sunset. As we approach Mid Winter now is the time to consider what we can do to protect ourselves against the winter blues and combat the effects of winter.

 

What is SAD ?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is caused by a sensitivity to the lack of natural sunlight during the winter season. Sunlight affects the pineal gland in the centre of the brain and this can lead to depressive symptoms when we are deprived of natural light.

 

Even if we do not have SAD, most of us notice a degree of change in our lifestyle and our activities during the winter months. Whether it is gardening, walking, organizing outings, or socializing, when the weather becomes cold and the evenings are dark we become less willing to do these activities or lose all incentive.

 

Signs of the Winter Blues or SAD

Low mood

Overeating or decreased appetite

Reduced concentration

Lack of enthusiasm

Sleeping too much or Insomnia

Lethargy, loss of energy

 

What we can do to help ourselves -  Self - Help Checklist

Go for gold: when you get the chance to see the sun get outdoors and enjoy it.

Be Social : make the effort to get out and meet people. Many activities are arranged during the winter months from darts, quizzes to dances there are plenty of activities to try. Give it a go. Don’t put yourself off before you even try.

Plan some alternative winter activities. For example: invite friends for a ‘Games Night’ at your house, dig out the Monopoly or remember Charades are not just for Christmas !

If you enjoy crafts, organize a crafts night with friends.

Exercise : increase your endorphins or ‘happy hormones’ your natural stress and depression buster. Try some aerobic exercise that will increase your heart rate like going for a brisk walk or try dancing. Or you could swimming or cycling at the Leisure Centre, try out the new gym.

 

Lightboxes/ light therapy: Using a dawn simulating alarm clock or a medically EU approved light box has been proved to help SAD sufferers. For more advice on buying a light box contact www.sada.org.uk and read their advice sheet.

 

Seek Advice : If you have noticed a change in your mood talk to your GP about it. Sometimes medication can help. If you are already taking medication for depression, careful consideration and medical advice is required before making any alterations to the dose.

If your mood normally dip in the winter period, talk to your GP on 28000 or contact the Community Mental Health Service on 28082 for more information.

 

Books available at the FIC library

The Good Stress Guide  (1995) Hartley Mary

How to Stop Worrying (1992) Tallis Frank

Learn to Sleep Well (2000) Idzikowski Chris

 

Contacts

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Association PO Box 989, London, SW7 2PZ www.sada.org.uk

 

 

 

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