Here in the UK we seem to have had a never-ending winter. I know it isn’t like the North American Prairies where you are snowed in for months on end, but it feels to me that this winter has been colder and greyer than I have seen for a long time. The forecast for this weekend is snow and freezing temperatures whereas this time last year we had temperatures of 21°C.

I have developed a cold this week and feel really tired, although this is the first illness I’ve had all winter it feels like the last straw. I am usually quite balanced in my mood all year round and it is unlike me to feel this way.

Around a third of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, often referred to as winter depression it often goes undiagnosed. It is normally a winter problem, but some people feel depressed in the summer. For a small number of sufferers the condition can be very overwhelming and debilitating. The cycle of light and dark controls our patterns of sleep and wakefulness and in the high Northern latitudes we have a much wider seasonal variation. In the days before electricity, humans were much more in alignment with the natural cycles of the seasons and would adjust their hours of sleep according to the seasons. Now of course we can have light 24 hours a day and our ancient rhythms are disrupted.

If you have had two or three winters of feeling this way and your mood improves in the summer, you may have SAD. These are some of the common symptoms:

  • lack of energy for everyday tasks
  • being more prone to illness
  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • mood changes
  • anxiety
  • social problems (such as irritability, and not wanting to see people; abusive behaviour)
  • concentration problems
  • overeating
  • loss of interest in sex or physical contact
  • substance abuse

Most people treat themselves following research and the most common and easily available solutions are:

  • Light therapy- there are special lamps with frequencies mimicking natural daylight – but go outside as much as you can
  • Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • Flower Essences
  • Meditation
  • Avoid stress as this can make symptoms worse
  • Exercise- even if you don’t feel like it and it doesn’t have to be strenuous
  • Try to eat well and avoid the cravings for unhealthy carbohydrates and sugar
  • Take a holiday somewhere warm
  • Have a social group of friends and family to support you

Hope this helps some of you and Spring should be here very soon.

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