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SAD: Winter Blues


If you have been feeling low, tired or even tearful this winter, you may have put it down to any number of things – working hard, stress, weather, to name a few. But you may be suffering from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is SAD

You could describe SAD as a seasonal or temporary form of depression. Those suffering may feel symptoms come on; in the Autumn months (September onwards), and often run until April.


Symptoms can vary from person to person and can alter in intensity from year to year, but here are some examples of what you might experience:

Overall well-being will feel compromised.

You may struggle to keep up with the usual demands of work.

Maintaining relationships may seem like too much effort.

Habits like exercise may go out of the window.

You may feel fatigued; and sleepy during the day.

Weight can either go up, and you may crave starchy carbohydrate-type foods. Or you can lose weight and find your appetite is poor.

You may experience tearfulness, low mood, feelings of despair and irritability.

You might describe life as lacking in joy, and you may struggle to find pleasure in activities and life in general.


Sadly, not enough research has been done to conclude why SAD occurs and why some are impacted over others (more women than men).

But, weather and specifically a lack of sunshine, is thought to impact how our brains function. Negative impacts on our melatonin levels (required for quality sleep), and serotonin (sometimes referred to as the happy hormone), are thought to contribute to the symptoms.


You should discuss any symptoms with your GP. They will want to rule out other health conditions and will check that it is SAD not depression. A Doctor is unlikely to categorise things as SAD – unless you have gathered two years of data to demonstrate a seasonal problem. So, keeping a symptom diary can be helpful.


A GP may offer talking therapies, CBT, or medication – like an anti-depressant. However, there are also things you can do that may help:

Get outside and get as much exposure to natural sunlight as possible.

Gentle exercise, like walking, can be beneficial – even better if accompanied by a friend.

Social contact, even when you don’t feel like it, really helps to boost our endorphins.

If money allows, taking a winter holiday in a sunny destination could do wonders.

You could try light box therapy for 30-60 minutes per day. Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s helpful, but more research is needed; in this area.

Increase foods in your diet; that are naturally high in Vitamin D, like egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified cereals, red meat, some non-dairy milk and oily fish. A supplement may also be suitable for some people.