Every year I used to dread January.
The very first time I spent a winter in the UK, I found myself feeling down. I always felt tired because I slept badly and everything seemed like a huge effort.At the time I was going through some tricky relationship stuff so I put a lot of my low feelings down to that, but the next year I was in the throes of a new relationship and still didn’t feel 100%.
Year after year, I’d find the first couple of months of the year a struggle. It wasn’t full blown depression; I’ve suffered from that before and what I was feeling wasn’t as severe. The most accurate description of what I was feeling can be summed up in one word- Blah.
For a long time, I put my ‘January-itis’ down to whatever was going on in my life; I’d just got back from a trip back home, I’d recently had a baby or was pregnant, I was sleep deprived, Christmas was over for another year or DH was going back to work and I was left alone with the kids. There was always an excuse.
Finally, a couple of years ago, I read an article about SAD , or seasonal effective disorder. This is a condition that as many as 1 in 50 people in the UK suffer from during winter when the days are short and the nights are long. Because of the lack of sunlight in the winter months, changes in the balance of certain chemicals and hormones in the body can affect some people’s moods and trigger a depression.
I knew I didn’t have SAD but the article also mentioned the Winter Blues, sometimes called sub-syndromal SAD. It described a condition where people feel more tired, sleep more and feel a little low. However, they do not develop the full features of depression required if you are to be classed as having SAD. This description of symptoms for the Winter Blues pretty much matched how I felt every January and I decided it would be worth trying to do.
The easiest way to treat SAD , or the Winter Blues, is with light therapy. However, this takes time and commitment.
First you need a special source of light. Ordinary light bulbs are not strong enough as they only give out 200-500 lux. To treat SAD or the Winter Blues, you need a light source of at least 2500 lux (about 10 times that of ordinary light bulbs). I bought a Philips goLITE which I use for 30 minutes most days from about October onwards and have found it really helps my mood.
You can use your light box as you go about your daily business, reading, at the computer, in the bathroom first thing in the morning, eating breakfast, watching TV- you don’t have to sit and just stare at it.
The only thing I’d say, is don’t use it too late in the day. If you use it too close to bedtime, you may find you struggle to get off to sleep.
Also the effects only work as long as you use the lamp. It can take up to a couple of weeks to feel the full effects when you first start using it but I always feel better after a couple of days of use. Fresh air, exercise, drinking enough water, eating well and making sure I get to bed early enough also help lift my mood at this time of year.
Still, it’s cold and grey out there isn’t it? Roll on Springtime!