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How to make sure you don't succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter



It's easy to give in to the temptation to eat and sleep a little more this time of the year.

The weather's getting colder and it feels like winter is just around the corner. Surely you deserve to give yourself a treat.

But thousands of us are also lacking energy, sex drive and finding it difficult to enjoy life.

They are showing many symptoms similar to depression but are actually suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Many people don't realize they have the condition, characterized by low moods in winter but higher moods in spring and summer over the course of at least two years.

Going outside for for at least 10 minutes several times a day is advised to help stave off SAD

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, those with SAD may also struggle to get up on winter mornings.

Here Dr. Cosmo Hallstrom, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, give their top tips for staving it off.

1. Go outside several times a day for at least ten minutes

Stephen said: "It can help to spend as much time as you can in natural light – for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window.

"Some people find it helps to use a light box – a device that gives off strong white or blue light – or a lamp." To get a good amount of vitamin D from the sun, it's recommended you go outside for 10-30 minutes each day, several times per week. In winter months even the small amounts of sun might be difficult to find so a light box could be a benefit, according to Cosmo.

2. Try not to overeat – it won't help your mood!

One SAD symptom is that sufferers often crave sugary foods or heavy carbohydrates.

Research has shown that exercise can be effective at treating depression as antidepressants

Cosmo said: "One of the problems is that people are compensated by overeating – craving food, chocolate, carbohydrate craving."

He said: "Avoid comfort eating, avoid alcohol and avoid caffeine – avoid excesses."

Stephen also said some sufferers find that taking certain supplements is helpful alongside their regular diet.

He added: "Some people find supplements for vitamin D or vitamin B12 are useful alongside other steps." Sufferers also should try and stay social rather than becoming reclusive in the winter.

3. Work up a sweat in the garden

Research has shown that exercise can be effective at treating depression as antidepressants.

Stephen reckoned getting out in green spaces, for example doing some gentle gardening, can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. But it's all about finding what works for you. He said: "This could mean anything from going for a countryside run to spending a few hours gardening. Everyone has different experiences, so it's important to find out what the form of exercise works for you. "

4. Don't suffer in silence if symptoms persist

Cosmo said cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, a form of psychological therapy that has proven benefits in treating SAD.

CBT looks at the symptoms of the problem, how you can address them and why you have them.

If you're struggling to cope with symptoms, speaking to your GP about CBT or taking antidepressants could help you.

It's possible to book in with a CBT practitioner privately or see your GP for more information.


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