It is a medical fact that people can feel more depressed in the Winter and especially so in January after the highs of Christmas and New Years are over. This even has a medical term: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is thought to be caused by the changes in light levels which disrupt the body’s natural body clock and an imbalance of Melatonin and Serotonin levels. It appears that some people need more light than others to keep everything in balance and when they are starved of this light over the winter period their mood and energy levels are negatively affected. So, how can you beat what is colloquially referred to as the January or Winter blues?
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- sleep problems
- feeling down and unsociable
If you are feeling any or all of these symptoms then the following tips could help:
This is perhaps the best way to get the best of what light there is. Staying indoors, no matter how many windows you have will not get you anywhere near as much light as going outside. Getting as much natural light as possible is a really good way to reducing the effects of SAD. This takes us on nicely to the next thing to do…
We don’t mean hitting the gym or even going for a long run, a simple 30 minute to an hour brisk walk will be enough to help raise your heart rate and get your energy levels up to where they should be.
It can be tempting to curl up in a ball and just eat comfort food like chocolate or biscuits, but this will not help. Make sure you eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Try no to overindulge in carbs and balance that craving with plenty of fruit and veg to get your vital vitamins and minerals.
If getting outside, keeping active and eating well don’t quite get you on an even keel, you can try what is called light therapy. Light therapy is where you sit in front of a specially designed lamp called a light box which gives off significantly more light than normal indoor lamps and are designed to mimic the sun’s light.
Practicing mindfulness can help reduce January Blues. At its most basic it is a kind of meditation where you pay more attention to what is happening inside you and around you in any precise moment. The aim is to essentially shut out the wider world and the continued stimulations. By being present in the moment, you can focus on something as simple as the touch of your clothes on your skin or the noise of the wind in your ears. This simple method of resetting yourself will help you gain perspective and enable you to cope with the negative effects of Winter.
Sometimes all you need is a bit of company and support. Make sure you don’t withdraw into yourself and get out and socialise with friends and family. It’s amazing what a simple chat over a cup of coffee can do to lighten your mood.
Quite often January can be a financial worry especially after the excesses of the festive period and the need to get back to being an adult after a lovely break. Try to reduce your day-to-day stress levels. Get back into a normal routine, set yourself a budget to alleviate any financial stress, get on top of the housework and keep on top of it. By getting your life back into balance, you will reduce daily stress and make it easier to cope with the January Blues.
Talk it Through
If things are really bad, then talk to someone and get a bit of help. We all need a hand now and then and it takes a great deal of courage to ask for help. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have a list of therapists who can help you to gain new skills to help you with how you are feeling. You can also contact your GP who will refer you to an NHS counsellor or you can refer yourself. Alternatively, there is also the Samaritans who are always there to help.
The January Blues hit all of us at some point, if they have you in their grip, try making a couple of small lifestyle changes. If these simple changes do not help, then please do seek some extra support, the most important thing is to avoid withdrawing into yourself.