How To Beat The Winter Blues – Part 2by Dr Holly Kahya - 27th October, 2016
How to Beat the Winter Blues – Part 2
As the darker night’s approach and the weather worsens in part 1 of How to beat the winter blues we explored a bit about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and some of the biological factors that might account for symptoms of sleepiness/sleep disturbance, lethargy, low mood/depression, and changes in appetite. In Part 2 we will explore how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might help us to change what we do to cope, to reduce the symptoms of SAD.
Changing what we do
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is based upon the assumption that how we feel affects what we do and what we do affects how we feel. From this perspective, when we feel sleepy, lethargic and low in mood it seems perfectly understandable that we might try to cope with this by hiding under the duvet and reaching for the biscuits. We are also more likely to notice more negative automatic thoughts, such as “Oh, it’s cold and dark outside, I might as well just stay in…” Unfortunately the more we avoid going out and taking part in pleasurable activities the worse we are likely to feel, resulting in a vicious cycle.
In order to break this cycle, it can be helpful to try writing a weekly activity schedule (such as the one below) to help ensure we are keeping active and engaging with rewarding and pleasurable activities that help lift our mood and re energise us.
To increase your exposure to sunlight and maintain your general fitness you could try scheduling in time for regular outdoor exercise, such as going for a walk in the park at lunchtime. Since it is also harder to maintain a healthy, balanced diet when suffering from SAD it might also be useful to schedule a time to plan a healthy meal for each day and to do the relevant food shopping. It can also be beneficial to plan ways to manage stress through the winter period by planning times for relaxing activities such as yoga, mindfulness or time with friends. Finally, now’s a good time to plan a holiday as a way of breaking up the winter months – spending time outdoors in nature even in the UK can be a good tonic for beating the winter blues.
Whilst these ideas might sound simple and obvious, it can be surprisingly difficult to implement these strategies when we are feeling lethargic or depressed, therefore getting prepared early is the key to effective mood management.