This weekend the clocks go back. And whilst I am so excited about that one extra hour to bury myself under the blanket I know the fact that it signals the end of British Summer Time will bring on months of struggle. As, along with many others in the country, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is bound to set in.
Despite being a Winter baby, I despise the Winter months. Days when I wake up in darkness, get to work in darkness and leave work in darkness does nothing for my mental well being. When you thrown in the cold, wind and rain too – it just about pushes you over the edge. Those who say they enjoy the winter months can only be those who do not suffer with SAD or find it easy to cope with what it brings.
So what is SAD? SAD is a condition that means that those who suffer with it are greatly affected by the season changes. The dark, cold days and nights have a big impact on mood and energy levels, which can lead to symptoms of depression which in turn have a significant impact on daily life.
Those who experience SAD will have a variety of symptoms. This could be lack of energy, concentration problems, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood change, over eating, greater drug and alcohol use and social and relationship problems (often irritable and not wanting to be in social situations).
As someone who does not cope well in winter, I’m not going to lie – I am not looking forward to it. Whilst many friends are rejoicing in the thought of cosy knits and a hot toddy by the fire, I already long for warmer days soaking up the sun, whilst lounging in the garden – and technically the Winter is not even here yet.
As with many issues in my life I have learnt to find a coping mechanism. A way to get through the months and months of misery, and we have not even touched the awful “C” word that comes just before New Year.
It is known to be more stressful at this time of year. When Christmas (yes that blasted C word), is fast approaching the stress levels rise. In my previous job there was a heavy focus on Christmas, with 40% of sales made in the last 3 months of the year. So the pressure was on to perform, to hit targets and at the same time be “super happy, and super jolly.” I got on board with the targets and focusing on sales – that I had no problem with. However, despite constantly telling colleagues I just don’t enjoy Christmas, some seemed to think it was okay to use this as a way to target me as being a “Scrooge.” At this time of year, I think others need to have a little respect. When someone says they don’t enjoy the Christmas period it doesn’t mean that they are miserable or a Grinch – there may be a reason behind these feelings that they just don’t wish to share. So if you are one of the jolly, jolly festive types – leave those that don’t wish to be all singing and dancing alone. You don’t know their reasons, just show some respect.
To say I am overjoyed that I don’t have the same level of stress this year would be an understatement – I am ecstatic. To be in a role where Christmas is not shoved down your throat just lifts the stress off my shoulders.
There will be other demons to deal with this Winter, like the first Christmas without my Uncle – which is bound to bring its own struggles when I don’t see him dancing around to Madness on Boxing Day.
A support network is key.
I am lucky to be surrounded my so many lovely friends, many who understand and have experienced issues themselves. And if they have not, they just drag me out and bring up my spirits anyway. Some I don’t see for months, but are always there when I need them and vice versa.
Home and family is key too. Again I am lucky here. The past few months has shown that my home life is pretty amazing, we have got through some pretty tough times and still have the ability to laugh, joke and support each other.
The same goes for family. Tough times have shown how amazing family are. You may not agree, you may fight most of the time – but at the end of the day, they are there.
EXERCISE AND DIET
Keeping active is a given. The last few years I have found suffering with SAD easier because I have been so active. Spending the Winter months at Boot Camp in the dark, in the mud, in the rain has had a positive effect on my well being; because not only does it get you out of the house, it gets you interacting with people.
Interacting with people is something I have tried to avoid over the last few months and I completely lost my routine. However the last two weeks has seen me back on track; I joined a new gym and I am sweating it out every morning at 6:30am with the rest of the early birds. It bloody hurts to get out of bed at 5:30am but, once done, I find that I feel happier and ready for the day.
Work is one of the biggest stresses in our lives (as mentioned in one of my previous points). But work is just that, it is work. It should end at the working day – especially in the Winter months.
I have always been a strong advocate for a healthy work-life balance. And it is never more required during the Winter. We will spend months of arriving to work and leaving work when it is dark. Its horrible. Its depressing. So stick to working hours.
Unless there is an important deadline, go home on time. Work will still be there the next day. Do what you can in working hours, then come back the next day and work again.
There is more to life than work. If you do not see that, then you need to leave work on time and live.
GET MORE LIGHT
Its simple. Get outside during daylight hours.
I have always been a stickler for this – especially during working hours. When colleagues wanted to spend time eating and working through their lunch breaks (another no no in my book), I encouraged as many as possible to get out, to go for a walk during lunch breaks.
You don’t get paid for the lunch break, so take it. Sitting in front of your computer and being indoors for hours on end every day is bad for your health.
I made sure I went for a walk during my lunch break as I was lucky enough to have a park nearby during my previous role.
Now, I only get a 30 minute break. But that does not stop me finding the best possible route and completing a power walk in this time.
My break time belongs to me after all. It is my time. I will use it to get out and enjoy the daylight.
If you find everything a little too much, like with all mental health issues, get help. Talking about any issues you may have is the best thing you could possibly do.
If someone you know is suffering, encourage them to seek help and give them as much emotional support as you can. Just the smallest gestures could help someone who is suffering.
Lets get through the Winter months with fewer people suffering with mental health issues. Its a tough time of year.
Lets keep removing that stigma. Lets talk.