Shirley’s Mental Health Blog – November 2020

Check out Shirley’s blog for dealing with the winter blues – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Winter blues – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Most of us find that the sunshine during summer, really uplifts our mood and increases our sense of happiness.  However, when the nights start to draw in over autumn and winter, the clocks go back and there are fewer daylight hours, and more darkness. My mood starts to dip and sometimes I struggle with getting out of bed in the mornings, my body aches and I am more prone to illness generally during the winter months. If there was any possibility I could hibernate, I would!  I have now grown to expect this as my normal winter mood routine, which is why I usually try to plan a winter break to sunnier climates, and I take vitamin D supplements.

This year is different for us all though!  We are all individually trying to find ways to cope during lockdown for the second time, and I’m not going to lie to you – I’m struggling a little, but I know Seasonal Affective Disorder affects thousands of people every year.

Here is a reminder to myself, and to those of you who experience S.A.D., of some of the ways we can improve this.

This information is from BUPA website which sums it up quite nicely:

Six self-help tips for SAD

There are some things you can try yourself to help manage your symptoms. Even if you don’t have SAD, these tips can help you look after yourself over the next few months. Here are six simple ideas to help you get started.

1. Get outside during daylight
If the decrease in daylight hours is affecting your mood, try to make the most of them and get outside when you can. Even a cloudy day will provide your body with the light its craving. So whether it’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, or something you fit into your lunch break, wrap up warm and head out into the great outdoors.

2. Brighten up your environment
If you work indoors, make a conscious effort to let in as much sunlight to your working environment as possible. Open any curtains or blinds and sit by a window if you can.
As well as making your environment bright, you could also try bringing the outside world in with some indoor plants to feel a bit closer to nature.

3. Eat well
It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to make sure your brain gets everything it needs to function properly. Try to eat little and often, and drink enough water throughout the day to help keep your brain energised and hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol too, as this can make you feel worse.

4. Exercise (outdoors – if you can!)
Doing regular physical activity can help with low mood as well as improve your physical health. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends exercise for depression because it can help with mental wellbeing and getting enough sleep. So, getting outside and moving if you’re feeling low might just help to take your mind off things and lift your mood. It doesn’t have to be too intensive, go for a walk or gentle jog or cycle if you feel up to it.

5. Keep in contact
If you have SAD, you might find it difficult to keep up contact with your friends and family members. Arranging regular catch-ups in advance might help you to overcome this. You don’t have to do anything too complicated. Try a short video coffee date or a socially distanced walk at the weekend. Let your loved ones know how you’re feeling, so they can support you when you need it.

6. Have a self-soothe plan for tough days
If you recognise patterns of feeling low, it can help to plan for those difficult days. This might include some self-soothing measures – things that you know help comfort you. It might be wearing soft and comfortable clothes, using a notebook to write down your thoughts, or having a list of favourite films to watch. You might also think about rearranging meetings or events for another time, or planning in some relaxing activities. Think about what might work well for you.

Some people swear by SAD lights or light therapy. This involves using an artificial light to mimic the effects of sunlight by waking up to a gradually growing brighter room.

My plan of action for this weekend, is to go for a walk around our local park, buy some fairy lights to put up in the house and get some nice scented candles.  Try not to overindulge on the alcohol and binge foods over the weekend!  Visit elderly parents, albeit through a window, and find a nice girlie flick or comedy to watch. Oh and lastly, I’m contemplating putting the Christmas decorations up… watch this space.

If you have anything that works for you, I would love to hear your suggestions.

Until next time,