It's easy to confuse Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with the winter blues but the degree of dysfunction is the determining factor. People with SAD suffer setbacks in their personal and professional relationships as they withdraw from family, friends and colleagues, their energy and concentration levels flag and they are significantly unhappier. But people with the winter blues tend to manage life's demands, albeit with difficulty. There are several steps we can take to improve things:
1. Recognise the problem. We may feel we have decreased energy, fatigue, want to sleep more or crave sweet things. Catch the symptoms early to combat it.
2. Get more light. Go for a walk on a sunny winter's day. Bringing more light into the home also helps, so make sure windows are clean and there is a light space to retreat to during dark winter days.
3. Invest in a light box. Getting a light fixture specifically designed for people with SAD can also help. The best boxes have florescent light bulbs behind a screen that filters out UV light and an illuminated area of a least one square foot.
4. Get up early & keep busy. And be sure to plan some treats for yourself such as a day trip or an evening out ... in fact anything to lift the spirits.
5. Get moving. Exercise does great things, especially if combined with bright light, so go for a walk in the morning.
6. Improve your diet. Avoid high-impact carbohydrates such as pure sugars or white starches. They may be tempting but they can lead to more cravings. Switch to low-impact carbohydrates such as unprocessed oats, legumes, almonds, walnuts and high-protein foods.
7. Talk to a professional. Self-help can only go so far. If your winter symptoms are proving particularly disruptive or you are very unhappy, then it's best to consult a doctor.
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