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How to beat the winter blues

25 June, 2018
Beating the winter blues

Australians are a lucky bunch, not having to worry about months of darkness when winter rolls around. Unfortunately, there are still a small portion of antipodeans getting a mean dose of SAD in the cold season.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder - signs and symptoms of depression that arrive with the dark and colder months.

What causes SAD?

Shorter days and less sunlight impacts your natural circadian rhythms, as well as your melatonin production. Melatonin is prevented from being produced in the light, so is generally secreted at night.

The symptoms of SAD are what you’d expect from someone chronically tired:

  • Hypersomnia (sleepiness)
  • Over-eating and craving for carbs
  • Low energy levels
  • Lack of concentration
  • Slow thinking
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Depressive and destructive thoughts

 How can I manage SAD?

You can always prepare for better mental health by taking care of your mind, body and your diet. Here are a few winter-tips to keep your spirits from sinking:

  1. Work on your sleep hygiene – your sleeping habits and environment are at the core of sleep hygiene, and just like any processes, they can be worked and improved on. Some quick ways to sink into better sleep are
    1. Setting up a regular bed time
    2. Only using your bed for sleep
    3. Making sure you’re getting enough exercise during the day
    4. Avoiding stimulants before bed (or as early as late afternoon)
    5. Keeping a diary of your sleep performance
  2. Think optimistically optimism has demonstrable mental health benefits. Being hopeful and confident in future success allows you to maintain motivation, adjust better to adversity, and improve relationships. If you’re a classic cynic or are struggling to see the light in the darker months, you can
    1. Reword your thoughts (instead of ‘I failed’, you can think again and replace it with ‘it didn’t work out well this time, but this will help me for next time’)
    2. Take inspiration and support from those around you
    3. Keep a diary of your day, noting your successes, and how you plan to use what you’ve learnt to improve
  3. Eat healthy winter foods food impacts mental health, which means you have the chance to eat your way into a cold-proof mindset. Try shopping seasonally for your fruit and veges this winter with
  • Oranges
  • Mandarins
  • Kiwifruit
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Kumara

Plenty to work with there to make a citrusy fruit salad or a simmering winter stew!

  1. Get plenty of exercise – the cold can make it harder to get motivated and take longer to get warmed up, but exercise is a fantastic antidepressant. If you’re looking to reach your workout goals in the winter, try
    1. Minimising any discomfort from cold where it relates to your exercise
    2. Spend more time warming up
    3. Organise team or group activities
    4. Set small, achievable goals to work towards

By making healthy habits in the winter, you’re preparing yourself for the following spring and summer!

Sources

How common is seasonal affective disorder in temperate Australia? A comparison of BDI and SPAQ estimates

Seasonal affective disorder - Health Direct

Seasonal Affective Disorder: why you feel under the weather - The Conversation

Beat the Winter Blues - National Institute of Health

Seasonal affective disorder: Can winter really send you into a case of seasonal depression? - ABC News

Do you have the winter blues? - NHS UK

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies.

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