Positive mental health & wellbeing
Wellbeing in winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It’s normal to feel low sometimes, but as the days get shorter, darker and colder over the winter months, particularly during the restrictions of a pandemic, supporting your mental wellbeing is even more important. 

There are many simple steps that most of us will respond to that will help us keep more upbeat and positive throughout the winter months.  Some of these steps include:

  • trying to get as much natural sunlight as possible
  • making your working and home environments as light and airy as possible
  • sitting near windows when you are indoors
  • taking regular exercise, particularly outdoors in daylight
  • eating a healthy diet Government  advice about Vitamin D
  • trying to avoid, or manage stress
  • talking to your family and friends so they can help support you.

The Mental Health Foundation also provide some useful advice and tips on protecting and supporting your mental health this winter.

If you can’t get out and about, consider a ‘mindful moment’ to lift your spirits. The BBC Springwatch programme has a series of short clips of the sights and sounds of nature.

Some people can be particularly affected by a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which has a recognised pattern that usually starts in the autumn or winter and improves in spring.

SAD has a range of symptoms that vary in nature and severity, from person to person, but is mostly characterised by low mood, lack of energy, sadness or depression. Read more about symptoms of SAD.

Milder symptoms can often be managed by making small changes in lifestyle, but persistent symptoms of 2 weeks or more that are impacting significantly on day to day life, may need professional help to resolve, and you should consult your GP. Read more about diagnosing SAD.

Help for SAD

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD should be treated like other forms of depression and advise a number of treatments including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or antidepressant medication. 

Your GP will identify which treatment or combination of treatments will help most. 

Counselling and CBT

This is available via your GP but the University also provides these confidential services free to staff from our Staff Counselling and Employee Assistance Programme.

Online self-help CBT is also available at Silvercloud.

Read more about treating SAD on the NHS website.

More information is also available at MIND information about SAD