Coping with SAD

This morning I woke to the sound of heavy rain falling outside my window and it was still so dark that it felt like the middle of the night. It’s constantly cold, wet and seemingly dark all the time – winter is definitely on it’s way! If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m not a winter person. For me, the only good thing about winter is Christmas and, luckily, I love Christmas so much that it makes enduring the cold and dark worthwhile. It’s not just the weather that I hate, but as I suffer – although only mildly – with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), getting through winter days can be a real struggle for me.

According to the NHS, SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in seasonal patterns and, for most people, it is more severe and noticeable during winter, although some people do suffer with it during the summer. Fortunately, my SAD is not as bad as some people’s and I am able to still carry on without it impacting my everyday life, although I do find it hard to be motivated during winter. 

When the temperature plummets and there is little daylight I crave carbs, fatty foods and all I want to do is go home and sleep. It is a struggle everyday to get motivated to head outdoors for a run or for a post-work gym session, and I have to be incredibly disciplined to stick to healthy meals when all I want to do is eat chocolate and pizza.

My winter lethargy has gotten better over the years, mainly because I’ve found some ways that helps me to cope during this season. 

Running, especially getting outdoors for a run, is something that has had a massive impact on improving my SAD. Although I struggle to get up early for a run at this time of year, I find that if I do manage to get out the door it has a positive impact on my mood and energy levels throughout the day. 

Another way I’ve learnt to cope when it’s constantly cold and dark is to make the most of any daylight there is. At the weekends I’ll try and spend as much time outdoors as I can, and I particularly love hiking and walking at this time of year, especially if it is cold but sunny. During the week I’ll always make sure I leave the office during my lunch break so that I get at least a little bit of daylight every day. 

Eating healthily is also an important part of how I deal with SAD. Although I’m more relaxed about my diet at this time of year and will often spend my winter Sunday afternoons baking up sweet treats, overall I aim to eat healthy foods that are also warming and comforting. 

Last year I also started meditating and practicing mindfulness. Both of these have hugely helped me to cope with stressful situations throughout the year, but particularly helped me get through last winter when I took voluntary redundancy from my previous employer and started a new job. 

These are ways that have helped me deal with my SAD and, as a mild sufferer I don’t visit my GP about it. If you really struggle at this time of year and find it impacts your everyday life it is important to speak to your doctor or GP and get professional help. 

Do you suffer with SAD?

The NHS defines the symptoms of SAD as: 

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

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