Seasonal Affective Disorder: how to beat those winter blues

As the days get shorter and the dark nights draw in particularly early over Edinburgh, many of us eagerly look forward to the upcoming festivities that winter promises, however for 1 in 15 Britons, this is sadly not the case.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern triggered by the onset of winter. Suffering from SAD is “like having your own portable black cloud”, says mental health charity Mind. The symptoms experienced by those with the condition vary from person to person but commonly include a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities and feeling lethargic, irritable, upset, tearful or worthless without particular cause.
Furthermore people will often experience noticeable changes to their eating and sleeping patterns that can become detrimental to their mental and physical health if the problems persist over a long period of time.
With around 6 per cent of the British population experiencing SAD every year, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of this depression and know what to do to help alleviate and combat them as best as possible.
Whilst it may be the last thing you feel like doing when having a particularly low and exhausting day, exercise can really benefit those suffering from SAD, especially if it involves getting outdoors. The combined affect of getting a healthy dose of vitamin D and the release of exercise induced endorphins can help in lifting your mood and leave you feeling more motivated and energetic. It is a great distraction and has lasting effects on your mental wellbeing. By simply focusing on your breathing, your pace or form, you take your mind off thoughts which may otherwise be bringing you down.
The World Health Organisation estimated that 1 in 3 adults in Britain are not getting enough exercise, with a major contributing factor being sedentary workday habits. For those of us who cannot avoid sitting behind a desk every day, it is essential that we incorporate exercise as much as possible before and after work. This can be as little as incoorporting a brisk stroll outdoors into your lunchbreak.
Elongated library sessions may be tempting but it is so important for us students to make sure we give ourselves some well-deserved intermediary breaks.
For those who are concerned about their sunlight intake and cannot get outdoors during the daylight throughout the winter months, it is advisable to also take a vitamin D supplement. You can pick these up in any pharmacy, with some pricing under £5: worth it to keep you smiling that little bit longer.
The importance of healthy eating and sleeping habits cannot be stressed enough for those trying to combat the symptoms of SAD. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night and the time you go to sleep should be roughly the same every night wherever possible. As the body repairs during sleep, it is important to allow this time to sufficiently recover from the stress and strain of the day to better equip yourself to tackle the physical and mental demands we face in life.
It is also key to maintain a healthy diet of slow releasing, nutrient rich foods such as oats, grains and vegetables to avoid the inevitable highs and slumps brought on by the over consumption of highly sugary foods.
Whilst taking these measures will certainly have a positive impact on your wellbeing, whether you suffer from SAD or not, in certain cases it is necessary to seek professional medical advice to determine if medication or therapy may also be a suitable solution to try and cope with and overcome its effects.
Illustration : Hollie Joiner

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