With dark winter nights and cold frosty mornings, many of us find winter a difficult time, and statistics show that the number of 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 and 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
How to combat SAD
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
- Vitamin D supplementation – our primary source of Vitamin D is from the sun, and studies show most of us already don’t get enough
- Talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling
- Antidepressant medication – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
So how can employers 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.
Communication is key
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 exercise and lunchtime walks, which is good for giving employees the natural endorphins that any form of exercise creates. If you are lucky enough to work near a gym this can also help too.
Ultimately, company morale is an asset and low morale means less engaged staff, which can impact on both the physical and emotional wellbeing of employees.
The longer nights and colder weather require a slightly different approach to maintaining good mental health as our bodies and minds adapt to a new season. Being wary of this is important, as is taking action, so be sure to utilise all of the tips above! And be sure to listen to your own body and mind too, as everyone is different and so there may be things you need to do that aren’t mentioned here to stay on top of your mental health.