A doctor’s guide to keeping positive as the clocks change

 

Winter is coming. The clocks have changed, and the long, dark nights are already starting. I know what you are thinking. How am I supposed to get through the winter? How am I going to stay productive and positive? Am I experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or more commonly known as the Winter Blues?

Well Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common and it can affect anybody of any age. As the days get darker, and the more you wake up when the sun isn’t even up yet, you might start feeling persistent low mood or lack of energy. You might see that you are struggling to concentrate at meetings or achieve deadlines at work. You might find that you are finding less pleasure in doing your usual activities. Sleeping longer is another major issue on those cold mornings. You might find you are feeling a little worthless amongst you colleagues who all seem to be coping perfectly well this dreary winter. Your symptoms; these feelings could mean you are suffering with SAD.

Fortunately, there are some simple tips and tricks here to beating the winter blues.

Foods you can try

Carb craving is a major problem in winter. Eating healthily, aiming for all food groups and those that release energy slowly will cause less carb cravings and sluggishness. Limit your sugar intake and do not rely on caffeine. Eat foods rich in folic acid such as leafy greens. There is some evidence we use it to make serotonin which is a happy hormone. Eat berries! There is some evidence they prevent us releasing cortisol which is responsible for stress. Indulge if you must but make it dark chocolate. Antioxidants and polyphenols in them can significantly elevate your mood.

Keep active

Exercising regularly helps release those happy hormones. It also beats sluggishness and warms those muscles. If you find you are little demotivated at work, do some deskercise or even go out for a brisk walk at lunch time.

Open those curtains

Even on a cloudy day, we need natural light to reset our circadian clock. Not only that, light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD. You can use a light box, which is ten times more powerful than office lighting. Sitting in front of it for 30 minutes can boost your mood. There are also lighting devices available on the market which mimic a bright summer morning sunrise and create natural light in your room in the morning. By mimicking a natural sunlight, your body is tricked into feeling good and energetic for a busy day at the office.

Stock up on vitamin D

Vitamin D is very important to maintain good mood. We get it naturally from sunlight and store it in our skin. Unfortunately, on cloudy days, we make less of it and deplete our stores quickly. this not only affects our mood, it also causes general aches and pains further adding to woes. Taking good quality over the counter supplements in the form of sprays or tablets would help.

Seek help

If you are trying really hard but are still finding those winter days a struggle, consider speaking to your GP or even your friends and family. Counselling, psychotherapy and medication can also be used to treat SAD.

By Dr Preethi Daniel, clinical director at private GP chain, London Doctors Clinic

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