How to ease SAD symptoms

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Once again, my friend Rebecca Kimberley, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (Facebook, Instagram), is back to help us feel better this winter and give us some information on how to combat SAD. If you missed the last post about what SAD is and its symptoms, go have a quick read before you keep going, we'll wait!

Getting through the winter blues can be pretty difficult, especially if you’re suffering from symptoms of SAD. Thankfully though, there are some things we can do to alleviate the symptoms. Here are my top tips to get you through the rest of winter:

Exercise

(Groan)! It’s on every top tip out there so it hardly comes as a surprise that regular exercise can protect (not prevent) against SAD. Without getting all biological regarding the mechanisms behind it, exercise promotes chemicals in your brain that improve your mood, concentration and sleep. Research shows that many people can cope with or evade SAD by exercising for 30-60 minutes and 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily.

Regular exercise is good for any type of depression and should be something to consider all year round for good health, but if you get SAD it’s more of an effort to even be considering it at the time of year when it’s the hardest to! Exercising outside is even more of a bonus. Yes, I’ve seen how awfully cold it is but exercising outside in the daylight can be really protective against depression. This is something than can be done (for free) in your local park or by signing up to local organisations near you, such as Our Parks.

But if exercising is a struggle in itself, stick to what you know. It can be something intense like HIIT or something relaxing and restorative like Yoga or Pilates – all of which can be done at home, in the gym or in the park. And if you’re really struggling to get that motivation or (like me) have no clue where to even start, why not invest in some 1-2-1 classes with a personal trainer like hmmm…say ‘The Fitness Weirdo’?!

SAD Lamp

Leave your depression in the dark. Adding more light to your day can reverse the symptom of depression and research shows that white light improved seasonal depression as effectively as antidepressant treatment does. SAD lamps, (also known as SAD lights), are a form of light therapy as they shine a bright, cool light which hits the back of the eye and sends nerve signals to parts of your brain to affect your chemical and hormone levels, thus improving your mood. Shine the lamp so the light hits your eyes at an angle, (as looking directly into it can cause damage to your eyes), for at least half an hour in the morning. You can expect to see improvements after a few weeks of using the lamp or it can even prevent symptoms from occurring if used prior to the beginning of winter. SAD lamps can be bought online or at your local pharmacy and The Seasonal Affective Disorder organisation has a helpful article to help find the right light for you.

Seek Help

It’s nice to know that there are things you can do to help SAD, but don’t forget – your GP is your first point of contact if you think you might have SAD and are struggling to cope. There are various treatments are available for SAD. The initial steps would be to have a chat with your GP to discuss the most suitable options available to you.

Treatments may include:

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  • Talking Therapies: Psychological therapy can help you work through negative thoughts and feelings and make positive changes. Effective therapies include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Counselling. You can get free psychological therapies like CBT or Counselling on the NHS. You can now refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service for SAD or other mental health problems, or if you prefer, you can talk to your GP and they can refer you. Find your local IAPT service here.

  • Antidepressant Medication: Antidepressants are also used to treat a number of mental health conditions. Your GP may suggest starting off with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), as they generally have fewer side effects than most other antidepressants.

There you have it. There are different ways to help with SAD and those winter blues. Remember that everyone might feel this way at any point, no matter how well everything may seem in their lives, but there are always people willing to help. If you're not sure where to start, talk to your doctor, or send Rebecca a message, either on Instagram or Facebook. And if you want some advice on exercise and nutrition, make sure to get in touch.