Dark winter nights, cold frosty mornings, starting the New Year with a body ravaged from Christmas booze and mince pies. There are plenty of reasons for January to be everyone’s least favourite month of the year.
Many of us find winter a difficult time and statistics show that people suffering with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is increasing all the time.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is seen as a relatively new illness, has only come into media prominence within the last few years.
SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. It tends to affect people in the winter due to limited supply of natural light, particularly those who work indoors. Lack of natural sunlight can result in your brain not releasing enough serotonin, which is a chemical that helps control our moods.
What are the symptoms?
SAD symptoms can include but are not limited to:-
- A persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
There are many ways to combat SAD – obviously, the first step would be to visit your GP to be properly diagnosed:
- Lifestyle measures – getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels
- Light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight
- Talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling
- Antidepressant medication – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
So how can you help employees with SAD?
Thankfully, the last few years have seen employers improve their understanding of employee’s mental health and the impact it can have with their company. However, for many, discussing mental health issues is still very much a taboo subject. This can only prove detrimental in the long run, if employees are feeling stressed or unhappy, they are more likely to be ill resulting in absences, in worst case scenarios, they may decide to leave the company altogether.
The key to solving this issue, as with most cases, is communication. Employees need to feel that they are able to come to their employers and discuss issues that they may find difficult to approach. To ensure that employees feel they can do this, managers should have regular meetings, appraisals and companies as a whole need to ensure they are doing all they can to instil an open, communicative ethic. Consider running employee forums, organising extra-curricular activities to improve team bonding, and release regular newsletters to improve communication and engagement across the company.
Exercise is also a big help, so a lot of companies (ourselves included) promote lunchtime walks together, again this is good for team bonding, as well as giving employees the natural endorphins that any form of exercise creates. If you are lucky enough to work near a gym, see if it is possible to organise a group lunchtime activity.
Ultimately, company morale is an asset, as important as your physical companies and clients, it needs to be looked after and nurtured, low morale means less engaged staff, and it can impact on both the physical and emotional wellbeing of your employees, they have a direct effect on your company.