Winter Blues – Are you SAD?
During the winter some of us notice we don’t feel so good. I know I often feel more lethargic and find it’s hard to get out – especially in the evenings when it’s dark by five o’clock. How often do you hear you or your friends say “I dread the winter” or “I hate these short days.”
Some of us really suffer during the winter months – in fact, recent stats suggest about 3 people in every 100 have significant winter depressions. Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD for short), this has a lot in common with depression and includes;
- feeling tired all the time
- wanting to hibernate
- feeling sad
- lack of interest and enjoyment in life
- low energy and motivation
- being less sociable
Common complaints made by people with SAD are, just how difficult it is to get out of bed in the mornings, how often they feel sleepy throughout the day and how hard it is to resist the endless cravings for chocolate and high carbohydrate or sugary foods. It’s with good reason many people complain of weight gain during these winter months.
Cognitive behaviour therapy and SAD
Research has shown that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for these symptoms is effective and that improvements in mood can be long lasting over future winter seasons. Also you don’t need to suffering to the extent of SAD in order to benefit from these CBT strategies. If you find yourself more fed up than usual, feeling lethargic and lacking motivation, CBT can help.
Specifically, CBT explores thoughts, feelings and behaviour and their impact on each other. Because motivation and energy levels are so low, people with SAD understandably reduce their activity levels, which in turn reduces mood and energy levels further, turning into a vicious cycle from which it’s hard to escape.
While many illnesses need rest and recuperation, the opposite is true If you want to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. If you find yourself stuck in these vicious cycles, meeting weekly with a CBT therapist can help. This can help you to develop strategies to increase motivation, identify and incorporate enjoyable activities into the day and to recognise, challenge and change negative thoughts. Where you are an expert in your own experience, a therapist can bring skills and knowledge of psychological processes that have helped others struggling to overcome SAD.
If you find your mood’s not so good over the winter months the following strategies may help:
- Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible for example take a walk during daylight hours.
- Keep active.
- Eat regular meals.
- Remind yourself the days will start getting longer again in the New year.
- Schedule regular time to see friends.
- Tell family and friends so they can understand and be supportive.
- http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/depression.asp provides an excellent CBT self-help guide for depression.