Looking After Your Mental Health in Winter

13.01.2020

Wintertime can be harsh on your mental health, especially following the festive season and the social overload that comes with it. With the long nights and cold mornings, many of us feel like hibernating until spring makes its appearance. The ‘winter blues’, more officially known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK – a form of depression triggered by lack of sunlight. But fear not, there are things you can do to counteract the negative feelings and prevent yourself from slipping into a wintery slump.

What are the symptoms of SADs?

  • Low mood
  • Feeling tearful or irritable
  • Feelings of despair, worthlessness or guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • A reduced sex drive
  • Stress and anxious feelings
  • Becoming less sociable
  • Losing interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Severe changes to your sleeping pattern

How to look after your mental health during the winter months

Watch your diet

We all tend to overindulge during Christmas time – but realistically, consuming too much sugar and carbs can not only be problematic for our physical health but also our mental health.

The brain is a glucose-hungry organ, and it’s easy to reach for the abundance of chocolate and sweet treats that we have seemed to acquire over Christmas, but the burst of energy doesn’t last long – and the slump will soon follow. Instead, fill your diet with a healthy mix of fruit, vegetables and oily fish.

Exercise

Feelings of unhappiness and low self-confidence arise much more when people are inactive, so it’s important to exercise regularly to benefit from the natural endorphins that are released through physical activity. Exercise can have similar mood-lifting effects as taking antidepressant medication.

We all know how busy the gym can get in January with the influx of people tackling their New Year’s resolutions – but if you’re not up for the hustle and bustle of your local gym, you can always try home workouts or run around your local area.

Get as much sunlight as possible

One of the reasons why your body clock is so disrupted in winter is because the light-sensitive cells in the back of the eyes have connections to the brains functionality to maintain the body’s internal clock.

Although you are more limited with the fewer hours of sunlight, try and get as much natural daylight as possible – which may mean working next to a window, taking a lunchtime walk or spending more time outside.

Spend time with your loved ones

January can be a tough time for your social life – the parties are over, the family has gone home, and the next bank holiday isn’t for another few months. You may feel like staying in and not talking to anyone, but social interaction is the well-known protector against all forms of depression and stress. Why not invite your friends over for a dinner party, plan a night in with a loved one or arrange a fun day out?

Ask for help

If you have noticed changes to your thoughts, feelings and behaviour during the winter season that arise frequently or last longer than 2 weeks, then it’s likely that you are suffering from SADs. It can be useful to speak to a professional, who will be able to tell you what support is available. Our private GP service allows you to be seen whenever fits your schedule with same day and flexible appointments available.

We have a team of leading psychiatrists available in the clinic if you would like to seek help for SAD or any other mental health condition. We deliver treatments that are specifically tailored to your needs, with a high level of trust, safety and care.

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