Last year Seasonal Affective Disorder bought me almost to a standstill. Since then I've read about it and gathered together information to help me with it this year. In case you are affected too here's my SAD action plan:
Foods that are slow burning and help to prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing; fill up on these!
- Raw fruit and veg
- Plain popcorn (can add a tiny bit of salt for flavour if you want but try it without)
- Oats (you can add these to things like bolognaise!)
- Raw, unsalted nuts (or roast them at home and eat without salt)
- Peanut butter
- Wholegrain bread and crackers, oatcakes
- Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon)
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals
Foods to avoid as they spike then dip your blood sugar:
- Sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits – refined sugars
- White bread, white rice, pasta, potatoes
- Caffeine (though it’s better if you have it with a slow burning snack)
So in general stay hydrated, fill up on raw fruit and veg, avoid too many refined sugar products. Weight gain can rocket in Winter so combine healthy, satisfying foods with gentle exercise.
Health and well being
- Vitamin D may help – studies suggest there is a link
- Get a light box and use it twice daily – in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening or before bed.
- Gentle exercise; walking, swimming, some home exercise like weights and sit ups, Pilates stretches. Prevents weight gain and keeps your body functioning healthily.
- Essential oils; if you have an oil burner burn a citrus oil (mandarin or grapefruit are good) in the mornings to stimulate you, and lavender at night to help you sleep. 6 drops of lavender in a bedtime bath is also good.
- Bedtime routine; sleep disruption is a major symptom of SAD and can lock you into a vicious cycle. Get into a simple bedtime routine by turning off all screens (TV, computer) at least 20 mins before you turn in for the night as they trigger chemicals in the brain that can keep you awake. Take time to read a book and if anything’s playing on your mind write it down before getting into bed and set it aside for tomorrow, or add it to a to do list if it’s something you’re worried about forgetting – it helps to get it out of your head.
- Keep warm; being cold can make you feel miserable when you’re already experiencing SAD. Wrap up well, keep your hands and feet warm if you suffer from bad circulation and keep your home evenly heated.
- Stay hydrated; when you feel thirsty this is a sign that you’re already quite de-hydrated and your energy levels will suffer as a result. Dehydration also causes headaches and other aches and pains, and can even make digestion difficult. Keep a bottle full of water with you at home and at work and keep sipping.
- Be easier on yourself; housework can wait, DIY can wait, major new projects can wait. Conserve your energy when you need to. Focus on gentle exercise and looking after yourself, and don’t take on more than you can handle. Treat yourself in the way you’d treat a loved one who was feeling the same.
- Plan nice things to look forward to during Winter; set dates for a meal, a night away, a day out etc and Winter won’t look so bleak.
- Make a sad to happy CD/MP3 compilation to gradually ease you out of a depressed mood and into a better one.
You might find it helpful to track how you’re feeling throughout Winter so that you can spot any triggers or patterns:
I hope this helps!