It can be easy to feel low throughout the winter months, as the weather gets darker and the nights draw in.
But now an expert has revealed how those who suffer a drop in mood at the same time of year each winter could actually be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Dr Arun Thiyagarajan told FEMAIL that those suffering from SAD can struggle to wake up in the morning, face an increased appetite and lose interest in everyday activities like socialising and sex.
The Medical Director for Health Clinics at Bupa UK also revealed his tips for helping manage your mood this winter, including building a routine of catch-ups with friends, and taking time outside – no matter the weather.
Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director for Bupa UK, said that it was normal to ‘occasionally’ feel lower during the winter months – but suggested if the feeling persists every year, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder
How can you tell if you’re suffering from SAD?
Dr Thiyagarajan revealed it was normal to ‘occasionally’ feel lower in mood throughout the winter months.
He said: ‘When the nights start drawing in earlier and the temperature drops, you may occasionally find yourself feeling lower in mood than usual.’
But he went on: ‘If you find that you’re feeling low in mood around the same time each winter, it could be a sign Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).’
Dr Thiyagarajan outlined other symptoms including needing more sleep and finding it difficult to wake up, and finding you’ve got an increased appetite could mean you’re suffering from SAD.
He also pointed to craving stodgy and sugar foods, feeling consistently anxious and distracted and losing interest in everyday activities, like socialising and sex, as clear symptoms.
He added: ‘Some people may find that the symptoms cause them to really struggle with their day-to-day life.’
What can you do to beat the autumn blues?
1. Go outside
Dr Thiyagarajan revealed that making the most of the daylight hours was ‘vital’, despite how difficult it might feel.
He said: ‘Although going outside may feel like the last thing you want to do, it can be useful to make the most out of the daylight hours where you can.’
He added that it didn’t matter if the weather seemed grey or drizzly outside, saying: ‘Vitamin D from the sun – even when it’s behind the clouds during daytime – can be beneficial for your body and mood.’
Dr Thiyagarajan also suggested: ‘It can be useful to bring the outside in by keeping curtains and blinds open and sitting close to windows, too.
‘Factor these tips into each day so it becomes routine.’
Dr Thiyagarajan suggested taking time outside, no matter the weather, could help tackle Seasonal Affective Disorder
2. Nourish your body
Dr Thiyagarajan pointed to the importance of nourishing your body, despite what your cravings may be telling you.
He said: ‘Even though you may be craving carbohydrates and treats, it’s still important to make sure that you’re eating little and often, and from all the food groups – not just carbohydrates – so it’s well balanced, as this gives your body all the nutrients it needs to function properly.’
He added: ‘Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated too, as this will help to keep you energised.’
Dr Thiyagarajan also suggested exercise was vital in beating the autumn blues.
He said: ‘One great benefit of exercise is the endorphins that are released when you’re active.
‘Endorphins – mood boosting hormones – can help to battle the symptoms of depression.’
4. Reach out to friends and family
The expert also suggested building a routine of catch-ups with friends and family that would be easy to maintain throughout the winter months
Dr Thiyagarajan revealed that opening up to friends and family could also make a huge difference.
He said: ‘If you’re feeling the symptoms of SAD, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get in contact with friends and family to arrange plans.’
He pointed to building a calendar of appointments throughout the year, which would then be easy to maintain throughout the winter months.
He suggested: ‘Make routine catch-ups with them a key part of your week, all year round – you can make them as simple as you like, even if it’s a walk or a chat on the phone.’