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Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder this Winter


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, is thought to affect a large number of people, particularly those living in countries with variable climates. It occurs more often during winter, with symptoms appearing around November and easing around April. Symptoms may include: low mood, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, irritability, feelings of despair, decreased energy, a need for sleep, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, and more frequent feelings of stress and anxiety.

The symptoms of SAD can take their toll, particularly due to their effect on energy levels. It can interrupt your social and work life, so it’s important to recognise the symptoms and try to do something about them, particularly during deadline season. Although the causes of SAD are not fully understood, there are ways in which we can combat them and help to ease those winter blues:

  1. Exposure to sunlight:

SAD is thought to be exacerbated by a lack of sunlight which, sparing the jargon, can in turn affect the chemicals in our brains which play a role in regulating our mood. One trick to beating the blues is to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Although it can be tempting to sit inside with the curtains closed and huddled under blankets, when done frequently it can actually be detrimental in the long run. Make sure to leave the house and drink in some of the sunlight for at least 20 minutes each day, which will make you feel much better than hibernating through Winter. Additionally, if you like to study from home, make sure to keep your working environment as light and airy as possible and if you can, sit by a window. You may also consider using a happy light, which is a full spectrum lightbulb that serves as a sunlight substitute, but consult a medical professional before doing so to learn about the possible side effects.

  1. Keep busy and stick to a routine:

Although SAD can feel like an uninvited tenant storming in unapologetically, kicking up a fuss, and demanding your attention, don’t let it ruin your routines. Keep a tight schedule full of lots of fun and productive activities; being organised can help to reduce the stress that is often associated with SAD. Granted, you may have deadlines and be busy in the library most of the time, but it’s important to schedule in some downtime to recuperate when your energy levels are low. Furthermore, make sure to hang out with friends regularly, as social networks are important during busy times and can help to make the struggle a little bit easier. Plan exciting things and reward yourself for completing tasks, don’t be shy of treating yourself for hard work.

  1. Exercise and a healthy diet:

As part of your busy schedule, it is also important to factor in some physical activity. The endorphins released from exercise can help to keep your moods up and can ward off the stress. Equally, try to keep a healthy diet rich in vitamins, especially vitamin D since we usually get this from sunlight. SAD can make us want to hit the carbs, and this can leave us feeling sluggish and unmotivated, which will only make matters worse.

Even after tackling all of the issues raised above, you may find that you are still struggling. If you feel that you are unable to cope and need some help, it’s best to see a medical professional who can offer advice and perhaps suggest some treatment such as CBT or medication.

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