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Winter is just around the corner, bringing dark nights, plummeting temperatures, and adverse weather conditions. Some people enjoy this season, but many individuals find it to be a challenge. The harshness of winter can affect their mood and well-being.

Known as the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people during the winter months. According to the latest research, SAD affects 1 in 15 people in the UK. Symptoms are at their most severe from December to February, when winter weather conditions really take hold. As with any condition, recognising the symptoms of SAD early and taking steps to prevent them is a vital step in the right direction. Find out how to keep SAD symptoms under control by reading this essential guide.

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are similar to those experienced with normal depression. However, it is the timing of symptoms that identifies a sufferer with SAD. Symptoms can return from year to year, but generally begin to improve in the spring. It can vary in severity, being slightly irritating for one sufferer but debilitating for another. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Persistently low mood and self-esteem
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in activities
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Lower libido
  • Less likely to want to socialise

Other symptoms include feeling less active than usual, wanting to sleep more in the day or for longer than normal, concentration problems, and increased appetite.

How to prevent SAD symptoms

There are a number of steps you can take to prevent SAD, or reduce the severity of symptoms. Those with more severe symptoms may want to seek a formal diagnosis and pursue treatments like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, antidepressant use, and light therapy. You can also find several helpful CBT books and programs online, which can make a big impact of your level of wellbeing.

In addition, regular exercise (preferably outdoors) and eating a healthy, balanced diet both lifestyle changes you can make to improve your mood and wellbeing. Combining therapy, in the form of self-help or help from a professional, with exercise and healthy eating will help your mood the most.

The impact of light on SAD sufferers

Increased exposure to natural light is one way of relieving or preventing symptoms. Mind explains the impact light can have, particularly during the winter months:

“When light hits the back of the eye, messages are passed to the part of the brain that controls sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity. If there’s not enough light, these functions are likely to slow down and gradually stop. Some people seem to need a lot more light than others for their body to function normally. They are therefore more likely to develop SAD symptoms if there are low levels of light.”

Aim to spend more time outdoors during the daytime where possible. Braving the freeze for a brisk walk during your lunch break is a great place to begin. Working and living in bright conditions will help relieve troublesome symptoms, so open up those curtains, not forgetting to get your windows cleaned to maximise light further.

Taking a well-timed winter break in a sunnier destination can also help you reduce feelings of seasonal depression. Heading off abroad this winter? Don’t forget to secure your property before your holiday.