Emma Prentice writes about the best ways to combat seasonal depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Despite being a 30-day month, November can feel like it lasts forever. The excitement of Halloween is now behind us, Bonfire Night has just passed and now it’s the long haul until December – bring on the advent calendars.
With the recent turn back of the clocks, seemingly imminent deadlines and the sudden realisation that you’ve spent more of your student loan on alcohol than expected, it’s easy to feel a little down. In particular, it is this decrease in sunlight hours which can really take a toll on your mood.
If you’ve ever watched Wild Child, you’ll know all about SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Despite the slight trivialisation of this disorder in the film, it is important to note this condition is very real and, in fact, can affect many people.
So what really is Seasonal Affective Disorder and how can we prevent it? SAD is a depression associated with late autumn and winter. It is believed that the main cause is the lack of light. Symptoms of SAD include a drop in mood, significant lack of energy, sleeping problems, and weight gain or loss.
Although there are several ways you can try to combat SAD, it is important to assess how much it is affecting your life. Severe cases of SAD require a doctor’s attention, so make sure to take care of yourself and get some external help if you need it.
Otherwise, here are a few suggestions to keep yourself on track throughout the dreary months ahead.
Stick to a Schedule
If you’re struggling with energy or mood, it’s easier than ever to skip things. One day you might decide to skip a lecture and then suddenly, five weeks later, you’re skipping four. So, make a schedule and stick to it. Having clear aims will help you get out of bed in the morning. Suddenly the vague thought of going to the library becomes an actual plan and this productivity can really raise your mood.
Write Down 3 Good Things a Day
Focus on the positives. Before you go to bed write down three good things about your day, whether it’s getting a coffee, seeing a friend or calling home. As well as going to bed with a positive mindset, this also means you’re not staring at your phone screen just before you go to bed. This may help if you have trouble sleeping.
The last thing you want to do on a rainy day is walk for 15 minutes to the Edge and then run on a treadmill. Exercise doesn’t have to be torturous though; even a walk outside can be good for you. Or, if you do want to go to the gym, try and research some different workouts which don’t include any exercises you particularly dread. There are also classes at the Edge which are free with membership, so why not try one if you need some help getting motivated.
There’s an App for That
Although spending too much time on your phone can be detrimental to your mental health, there are some apps available which support mental health. So instead of going on Twitter and Instagram for the tenth time in a day, try and choose an app which can help boost your mood. Two popular apps are Dark Sky and Headspace, both which are free.
Get a Light Therapy Box
This option requires a little investment but can be really beneficial. A light therapy box is something that mimics sunshine and is a recommended treatment for seasonal affective disorder. The light from the box is much brighter than light given off by regular light bulbs. Light boxes start from around £50 and the recommended daily use is 20 to 30 minutes.
Image: A Rosie Outlook