Beating winter blues – the effects of SAD on mental health

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The clocks turn back tomorrow, signalling the start of the winter blues for those with SAD. But what is it and what can be done? 

According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) causes people to feel low during the winter period and better during the summer. 

Symptoms include low mood, loss of pleasure, irritability, lethargy, increased sleep and craving carbohydrates.  But these are all cross over symptoms, meaning they are also symptoms for other types of depression. Not to mention, they are all symptoms that we may all feel at some point. The way to notice SAD is to note when symptoms are experienced. 

SAD may also be referred to as the ‘winter blues’ or ‘winter depression’.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has seen a surge in mental health, regardless of the time of year. Many have lost jobs, lost income, lost loved ones and lost stability. This has created long-lasting effects on our day-to-day mentality. So for those suffering with SAD, it’s even easier to feel like the world is dark and grey. 

So what can you do? 

Whether you suffer from SAD or know someone who does, there’s plenty that you can do to help.

The current restrictions mean that our social contact is limited. But this isn’t a reason to lose contact with those around you. Depending on your restrictions and location, you may be able to meet up for walks so arrange to meet up with others to talk and stay social. Or arrange online video calls.  

The NHS also suggests that exposure to natural light can help, so even if it’s standing outside for a little while or purchasing a lightbox, this will help try to brighten your surroundings and lift your spirits. 

If you feel especially hard hit by both the pandemic and SAD, then it’s recommended to sign up for cognitive behavioural therapy and speak to a professional. IESO Digital Health offers free online therapy to those eligible. Don’t suffer in silence, get help. 

For more information on treating or helping someone with Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit this website.

The winter period is about connecting with those around you. Don’t let yourself, or your loved ones suffer this winter. Much like with the pandemic, we will get through this together.


Words: Jessica Noble. Sub-editor: Sara Guadrini

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