A study conducted by The Weather Group has revealed that about 29% of the UK population are affected by seasonal affective disorder every year. As the lockdown has taken its full force and people are taking strict measures, balancing both the restrictions and the signs of SAD can be scary.
For people experiencing SAD also known as winter depression during winter, factors such as social isolation and inactivity tend to trigger our feelings around the condition. These feelings combined with the thick weather can cause us to be depressed and unmotivated. And that is because of the lack of sunlight and the effect of longer days on people’s mood.
At Prescription Doctor, Dr Giuseppe Aragona who is GP and Medical Advisor, gave details about the everyday activities that can help people combat emotions that come along with SAD during lockdown.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
In most cases, the symptoms of SAD are very similar to those of depression. The clear distinction is that for seasonal affective disorder, they occur during a particular period of the year when the weather begins to turn cold and the nights get darker. Using cognitive behavioural therapy can help you understand the overwhelming problems by breaking them into units like thoughts, situations, physical feelings, and actions. These parts are interlinked with each other because if you are threatened by a difficult stressful situation, it can affect your emotions and make you engage in a specific action.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is usually used by qualified therapists, but its significance can be recreated online through the use of interactive tools and being actively engaged in CBT exercises at home. The CBT activities you can engage yourself with at home include mindfulness meditation and writing self-statements. Critically, mindfulness will help you with anxiety and depression feelings and keep them very low. Also, writing self-statement will help you counteract and reframe negative thoughts.
Get your good exercise
Those suffering from depression often experience a loss of interest in their normal daily activities and this is not so different for those with seasonal affective disorders as well. You can lose interest in your hobbies and that can make you feel irritable, worthless, stressed, and anxious. It is crucial for you to create time to exercise for a balanced daily routine as this will enable you to get enough sunlight during these shorter days. The recent ONS data showed that between September 7 and 20, 11% of the UK labourforce was on either partial or full furlough, and about 24% of the nation worked remotely.
Ensuring that you use your lunch breaks to do exercise can be a great way to gradually include your hobbies back into your day. Personal trainers such as Courtney Black, Bradley Simmonds, Megan Grubb and Joe Wicks now use social media to train furloughed and remote workers. Regular sessions with trainers can help you stay active and mentally stimulated and also bring a sense of community back to exercise.
Location of Office
If your office is located in a dark space with little or no sunlight, you might want to consider moving to a better position where you are directly or partly exposed to sunlight. Your window side will be okay. The sunshine vitamin, vitamin D thrives off the natural light and lack of sun exposure means you’re shut in your home. And making most of the natural light is essential to your health and bodily circadian system. Thus, placing your workspace next to a window area gives your body to get as much vitamin-rich sunlight as possible which can cause a chemical change in the brain and alleviate depressive symptoms and improve your mood.
Eating Good food
Switching to a more positive lifestyle changes like eating healthy foods can help boost your mood and make you feel happier and less stressed. With the second lockdown in place, consuming takeaway foods can be threatening because you tend to crave for foods which look rewarding to compensate for how you’re feeling. However, food containing refined sugars, heavily processed ingredients, and fat are more harmful than being good for your mental health.
Go for foods that trigger your brain to release mood elevating neurotransmitters like serotonin and they include fruits, vegetables, and other foods high in fibre. Select seasonal fruits and veggies like pears, butternuts, squash, beetroot, kale and leeks. You can order for them to be delivered to your doorstep to avoid queuing at the supermarket.
Kick against unhealthy habits
Cut out on compromising lifestyle behaviours like smoking, drinking which can damage your mental state the more. The latest study on smoking and mental health revealed that 52.2% of the participants benefited significantly from the positive impact of smoking cessation after 4 weeks compared to 39.1% recorded during the 4 weeks of initial smoking cessation. The clarity of this study is that 13% of ex-smokers reported that they experienced immediate and rapid improvement in their mental health when they stopped smoking which increased 4 weeks after. Critically, smoking has been discovered to cause physical symptoms like irritability, anxiety and stress which are symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
In addition, there has been an upsurge in alcohol consumption earlier this year. According to Drinkaware, an independent alcohol education charity, 2 out of every 5 furloughed workers and one-third of parents (33%) having at least a child under 18 years old were consuming more alcohol since the lockdown began. Turning to alcohol can only alleviate your feelings in a short time, but can lead to more devastating feelings after then. Alcohol shouldn’t be used as a social coping technique to combat lockdown restriction and the associated feelings that come with it. The odd drinking over zoom or skype with friends and colleagues can make you feel the community togetherness, but shouldn’t continue during the week as it can lead to deeper problems of SAD.
Seasonal affective disorders like depression as a whole, often suffer from lethargy resulting in sleepiness during the day. This also reduces their concentration on their daily work activities. Sleep hygiene is an important fact you must combat to enable you function more properly during the day. If you already have sleep problems, try to complete a sleep diary for two weeks so that you can understand your sleep routine better. Document the time you are in bed and the time you wake up, how long you were able to sleep well, when you were awake during the night and the time you went back. The exercise you had during the day and the time you had it are the factors that can help you establish a healthier sleep cycle.
Other factors that can help you maintain a healthy sleep habit include a regular sleep schedule, getting quality relaxing bedtime routines like taking a warm shower, reading a book, and turning off electronic gadgets 30minutes before you go to bed.
Talk to friends and relatives
Although we may not all be feeling the same way, we are all working our ways through the pandemic. Talking to a friend, colleague or family over a phone voice call or video call can help boost your mood, make you feel less lonely, and reduce anxious feelings. Also, talking to someone about how you’re feeling can help you in a lot of ways. It can help you to better understand why you are feeling in a certain way and bring a sense of relief so that you can effectively deal with it.