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SAD AND COVID-19 – A WINTER DOUBLE-WHAMMY

Winter 2020 is posing a headache for more than half of the UK’s adult population.

As many as one in three adults suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder, and while not everybody is sure if they have SAD or not, a whopping 57% of us admit that our mood dips during the winter months.

For a long time, the jury was out on whether or not SAD was even a real thing.  If you’re one of the UK’s adults who suffer from it every year,­­­­­­ though, you know better.  With symptoms ranging from low energy, low self-esteem to heightened anxiety, daily life for a sufferer of SAD is a real struggle.

Clearly, the weather really can affect our moods and for many the onset of winter poses a very real threat.

WINTER BLUES AND CABIN FEVER

For anyone struggling with depression or anxiety, facing winter can be very like facing ‘lockdown’ … and there’s no question how many of us are experiencing ‘lockdown blues’ right now.  None of us enjoys being cooped up, especially under threat of contracting Covid-19.

During the first period of ‘lockdown’, research showed an emerging pattern of emotions experienced on a national scale.

Firstly, our overall happiness halved.

Then, we reportedly felt a sharp rise in stress …

… then fear …

… and when the fear subsided, frustration set in …

… followed finally by boredom.

That’s a lot of negative moods associated with ‘lockdown’.  If you suffer from SAD on top of all of that, you’re likely to be struggling under the weight of it all.

DOES SAD AFFECT YOU?

Now that we’re all in ‘lockdown’ again, the threat of SAD is worse than ever this winter.  It’s not easy to counteract the feelings of cabin fever, loneliness, boredom and physical sluggishness when you can’t get out and about during the day or in the evenings.

Do you suffer from SAD?  In past years, have you upped your exercise and socialised more during the winter months to stave off the low mood and fatigue that so often accompanies it?

On the other hand, this winter might be the first time you’ve experienced the ‘Winter Blues’.  If the short days and long, dark nights are beginning to take their toll on you, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself buoyant and feeling as though you’re looking after yourself.

HOW BEAT SAD WITH SELF-HELP DURING WINTER ‘LOCKDOWN’

·      SLEEP PATTERNS

When our body clock goes out of sync, so do our sleeping habits.  This can account for all sorts of psychological and physical upsets.  A common effect of SAD on our sleep cycles is the sudden onset of sleepiness earlier in the evening due to the lack of daylight.

When the clocks go back and our daylight hours are cut shorter, our circadian rhythm (our waking and sleeping patterns, essentially) are altered.  If you are having to work from home now, why not try out the change?

Get a few early nights in a row and wake up earlier in the morning … many people swear by this as they blissfully sleep away the troubling, lonely hours of the evening and grab the daylight from dawn.  It’s worth it!

·      EXERCISE

This will be the game changer for your mood during winter.  There’s nothing like the ‘feel good’ factor you experience after waking your body up with a brisk walk, run, cycle or workout.

There are many classes and groups you can join online now, which can help you not only to get moving but to feel more socially involved, too.  You may not feel like it every day, but a few days a week will make a big difference to the way you feel, trust me.

·      DIET

The urge to eat more carbohydrates increases when you suffer with SAD.

While it may be tempting to pull out the crisps in front of the TV most evenings, try to commit to a simple plan that you can make routine during the week … five days of being ‘good’ with two days of allowing a few treats per week, that sort of thing.

If you create too strict a diet plan during this ‘lockdown’ period, you will find it very hard to stick to and feel as though you’ve ‘failed’ when you find yourself munching again.  Set an easy target for yourself and feel good as you stick to your goals.

·      SOCIAL LIFE

It can be very difficult to take heart when you’re in the midst of a low mood, feeling lonely, vulnerable and cut off during a cold, dark night.

Make a short list of people whose company you like, or perhaps a couple of people you’d like to get to know better and keep it at home for the evenings.  Send them a message saying, “Hi!  I’m on my own this evening and would love a chat.  Are you around for a call?”

There’s nothing wrong or imposing about your doing that.  Loads of people do it all the time, now.  It’s a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with social isolation.

·      MEDICAL TREATMENT

SAD has been successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and antidepressants, but of course you will need to speak to your GP about these routes.

Doctors are available to speak to during this time; your mental health is as important as your physical health, so don’t wait before making that call.

·      LIGHT THERAPY

SAD is more appropriately called “Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Patterns” these days, although it’s still better known as just pain old SAD.

Sufferers often respond well to light therapy, or ‘phototherapy’.  Were you to choose this route, you’d sit in front of a box that emits a strong light that mimics sunlight.  The jury is out as to whether or not the light truly increases your serotonin levels (the ‘feel good’ chemical in your brain), but many people swear by it.

Light therapy can have some serious side effects, though.  You will need to protect your eyes and your skin.  If you have any history with skin cancer, you would do best to give the magic box of light a wide swerve.

While the percentage of we ‘locked down’, stressed out adults suffering from SAD may be on the rise this year, the good news that one hundred per cent of us will come out of ‘lockdown’ eventually.  Resolve to adopt some new, self-care habits – the most important of which, of course, is to talk, talk and talk some more about your feelings with somebody you trust.

Here’s something for you to look forward to during these dark, cabin-fever days … I plan to take a group of fifteen business owners on a twelve-month group coaching/mentoring programme.  Together, we’ll go on a journey and at the end of the year create a book, journaling our experiences of running a business during a recession.

If you would like to find out more, visit www.robgoddard.co.uk/mentoring

Till next time, keep talking!

 

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