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  • Writer's pictureKirsty Elliott

Don't be MAD about the S.A.D...........

So winter is coming.

For some this brings excitement about the festivals in this season -Halloween, Bonfire night and Christmas. And enjoyment in unearthing that favourite big jumper and taking up hot chocolate as a daily hobby. Lining up those Netflix series and favourite books for rainy days.

However, for some people this brings about a sense of dread. Because for them, at the same time each year, even if their mental health has been good all year, they start to feel down. They get demotivated, fatigued, they have less energy and start to feel unlike themselves. They want to spend more time alone and may have an increased appetite, which paired with the lack of energy can bring about weight gain.

So are these symptoms a pointer to a condition called S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder, also called winter depression) or simply our bodies naturally reacting to the change in season as animals do? Either way, if it gets you down and makes you unhappy - let's talk about coping mechanisms and ways to help yourself.

The things I will continue to discuss in this blog, are ways I myself have got through many a winter season. I have certainly felt the changes in myself round this time in the past, and have found it very difficult to cope when feeling so unlike my usual bright and bubbly self. So rest assured that my advice comes from my own tried and tested methods, and my ever burning passion for being happy and making the most out of this life.

GET MOVING! I believe that one of the most effective ways to feel better almost instantly is to get moving. The temptation can be to get under your duvet when its cold and dark and practically stay there. This might feel cosy, and it's definitely easier to hide when you are not feeling your best. But believe me this will only make you feel worse in the long run. I think the trick is, to find some form of movement or exercise that you enjoy. As you are more likely to get out and do it if, you know you will enjoy it once you are there. You could try gentle yoga, this will promote self love and space for your mind as well as moving your body. Dancing around your room to your favourite music for half an hour, is a sure way to help you feel lighter, get that body moving and make you feel good. There is cycling, gym, classes, walking, running, dancing - absolutely anything that gets you moving.

Why does exercise make you feel better instantly? When you get moving your body releases happy hormones like serotonin, adrenaline and oxytocin ( See my other blog for more on this). When these hormones are released they make you feel good, more motivated, they give you a sense of achievement and wellbeing - they are like natural drugs which directly lessen the symptoms of S.A.D. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself, do a little experiment. Write down how you are feeling before doing some exercise. Then write down how you feel afterwards. The comparison will be a reminder of why it's good for you to get up and get moving when you are de-motivated.

GET OUTSIDE! When the winter brings about colder days, darker evenings and different weather, we don't always want to be outside, which let's face it is understandable! But look for the bright moments, there are always those nice days, slightly warmer days, breaks in the rain and moments of dry. Get outside however and whenever you can. Our bodies convert sunlight into Vitamin D, so in the darker months we can become deficient in this which can certainly affect the quality of our mood and proper functioning of our bodies. So get outside as often as you can to help your body with this, you can also take a Vitamin D supplement through the winter months. I would also recommend Vitamin C as this helps to boost your immune system in the months when we can be prone to colds and flu. When getting out and about, try to find some nearby nature. Being in nature is a proven anti-depressant. Getting back in touch with our natural habitat, peace and tranquillity, lovely fresh oxygen from trees and walking is a perfect combination to combat the blues. Just wrap up warm and put on a good pair of boots :).

LIGHT THERAPY! You can also invest in a S.A.D lamp, also known as a light therapy box. They are around £30 and can really help to boost your mood. They have rays which replicate the sunlight, and your body responds accordingly - you can easily sit with this for maybe an hour a day - whilst you are eating your breakfast, reading at night, doing your make up or watching a movie. There are also dawn simulator alarm clocks, they start very dim and get brighter and brighter very slowly to simulate the rising sun. You feel like you are waking up naturally, and they can help you to wake up in a much better mood.

NATURAL ALTERNATIVES! If you really are struggling to cope, and it is affecting your life, why not try a natural alternative to anti-depressants? St. Johns Wort is a natural remedy for treating mild depression and anxiety. You have to give it time to get into your system as with pharmaceutical anti-depressants, so be patient with it. It can take a couple of weeks to work but can be a really useful aid. Always check you can take herbal remedies with any other medicines you are taking, read the dosing labels and buy from a reputable source. I recommend the "Good Mood" brand - they are stocked in Boots and are not a bad price.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Above all else, be kind to yourself. It is very easy to fall in to the trap of being hard on ourselves when we feel we are being less productive than usual. We are seasonal beings, just as the weather changes, so do we. Our bodies work in cycles. We must accept that we achieve different things in different seasons. Our behaviours change and our priorities change. This is natural. It is ok. It goes back to primal times and we must flow with it unless we want to become very unhappy indeed. I previously wrote a blog on mindfulness and grateful lists - these tools can be very useful in being present, appreciating the seasonal changes and being mindful of the new things we can experience with the changing times and not just focusing

on what is negative or lost. Write down a list of experiences you enjoyed today that you may not have had in summer....favourite warm socks that feel cosy, a hot cup of hot chocolate, the colour of the leaves, or snuggling up to watch a movie, appreciating the warmth when you het home, looking forward to celebrations with family. If you feel you are slowing down - enjoy it. Take the time for yourself. Know that summer will always come back around, and for now let yourself be peaceful. Hot baths, good food and cosy jumpers.

EAT SEASONALLY! Change what you eat to fit the season. Our ancestors knew what they were doing in eating what the Earth produced seasonally, before we could import all of our food from warmer climates. The minerals and nutrients we need change season to season as talked about above. The seasonal food reflects this. Mother earth knows what we need and gives it in abundance if we notice and use it wisely :) I am enjoying making stews with sweet potato, turnip, carrot, leeks and parsnips, tasty!

TREAT YOURSELF! If you are feeling low, being alone more and enjoying less than you usually do, why not treat yourself to a massage. Come and rest for a while in a warm and safe environment. Soothing music and beautiful oils to care for your body and mind. Massage boosts your happy hormones, helps your body stay balanced and boosts your mood. I offer Swedish, Indian Head, Deep tissue, Pregnancy and Aromatherapy massage as well as reflexology. I can mix warming oil blends such as black pepper and ginger to warm you r muscles in the winter months!

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