Whenever the winter months roll around and the days get shorter, you may notice many of your friends, co-workers and family members inevitably starting to complain about the lack of sun or how the sun sets before they know it.

However, to some people, the shorter winter hours are more than just an inconvenience.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is exactly what it sounds like. SAD is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons change – usually starting in the fall and ending in the spring or early summer months.

This disorder can present itself in numerous ways: low energy, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, sleeping problems, feelings of worthlessness or guilt and generally feeling depressed.

It can be quite easy to feel alone when experiencing this but remember that SAD affects 26 per cent of the population to different degrees and intensities. Remember that thousands of others have experienced the same emotions as you – and have come out on the other side.

When it appears as if SAD has taken over and there isn’t much you can do about it, be aware that there are various self-care strategies that will go a long way.

Exercise

Exercise has been proven to release endorphins, which are basically feel-good chemicals that are released into your brain. Endorphins will trigger a positive and “euphoric” feeling and make you have a better outlook on the day. This can help combat the generally negative emotions that come with SAD.

The following directory consists of a list of London gyms that are affordable and easily accessible – look up the one closest to you and give it a try (you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain).

Get Outside While it’s Still Light

Soaking up all the vitamin D that you can get is very important, so go outside while the sun is still up and make the most of it.

Some starters would be sleeping with the curtains open and taking advantage of outdoor spaces. For instance, go ice skating during the day when there is some sunshine as it’s a fun way to squeeze your exercise in. Grab some friends, head out to Victoria Park or the Covent Garden Market and start skating.

Victoria Park skating rink. Photo by Michelle Treglia.
Victoria Park skating rink. Photo by Michelle Treglia.

If skating really isn’t your thing, going for a 15-30 minute walk could be really refreshing as well.

Aromatherapy

This method can greatly help with SAD. Essential oils can positively impact the parts of the brain that are responsible for sleep and appetite. They can also help regulate and control mood. Next time you go for a bath, add a few drops of the essential oil to the water. Pay attention to your mood, and look for signs of improvement.

Have a Regular Schedule

A main symptom of SAD is having trouble sleeping at night and getting up at a regular, consistent time in the morning. Creating a regular schedule will improve sleep and in turn, help minimize the negative symptoms of seasonal depression. Purchasing an agenda or calendar can help quite a bit with having a consistent routine. So write down the work or errands you have planned for that day with a rough idea of when you will be heading to bed (try to make it a consistent time). After awhile, it will become second nature.

Get More Vitamin D

A main cause of SAD is low levels of vitamin D, so making sure that you are taking supplements is quite important. A study published in 2014 found that people who took vitamin D supplements saw positive changes quickly and their depression improved.

These strategies will help you to different degrees, but remember that not everybody is the same. If none of these methods end up working for you, do not get discouraged. The shortest day of winter was December 21st – and it has passed. The days will only be getting longer from here on out and you will make it past this.

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