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January 2011



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First Published Friday, 30 January 2009

Getting Through the Winter Blues

Long cold nights and dull dark days – the British winter isn’t fun for anyone.

Travelling to and from work in the dark and spending all day cooped up in an artificially lit office can send some people into a downwards spiral of exhaustion, depression and anxiety.

These symptoms, often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are thought to be a direct result of a lack of sunlight.

We subconsciously rely on sunlight, as it produces the hormones responsible for our sleep patterns, moods and our ability to concentrate – meaning that a sudden drop in our exposure to light can result in lethargy, mood swings and anxiety.

So what can you do to help ease the symptoms of SAD?

Dr Maria Read, clinical lead at the Central Sheffield GP Consortium says: “SAD can affect people in many ways. For some people it can be very severe and can actually prevent them from living their life normally. For others, the effects can be less dramatic.

“However, whatever the severity of your case, SAD can still have a detrimental effect on your way of life, making you feel down in the dumps and generally low. You may feel less inclined to socialise and day-to-day activities that you usually carry out with ease can become frustrating and difficult to do.

“It is therefore important to start increasing your exposure to sunlight. Try to get out of the workplace on your lunch break and go for a brisk walk. The fresh air will clear your head and the light will give you a real boost to get you through the rest of the day.”

Another important factor is your diet. SAD disorder can make you crave carbohydrates and in turn, lead to weight gain. So exercise and plenty of fruit and vegetables are essential.

Dr Read added: “The most important thing to remember when you’re suffering from SAD is to take care of yourself.

“Your body is trying to hibernate for the winter, and while none of us can afford to stay in bed for six months, it’s important that you don’t completely ignore the signs.

“Take a gentle walk or jog around the park. The exercise will release mood-enhancing hormones called endorphins and it will also counteract any comfort eating you’ve been doing!

“Also, try to balance out your meals with fruit and vegetables. While you might be tempted to pile on the pasta, or binge on the bread – your body won’t thank you for it in the long run. Try reducing the size of your carbohydrate portions and adding some vitamin-rich vegetables instead.”

Talking to others about how you’re feeling also plays a major part in boosting your mood.

“Discussing how you feel with a friend or family member can help enourmously when you’re feeling down,” said Dr Read.

“Keeping quiet and allowing your emotions to eat away at you will only make you feel worse.”

In more severe cases of SAD, help can be found at your GP surgery.

Most practices within the Central Sheffield GP Consortium can provide or refer you to qualified counsellors within Sheffield, as well as advise you on a variety of alternative therapies available.

For more tips and useful links to help you deal with stress, visit http://www.sheffieldhealth.co.uk

Source:   http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/134885.php

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