10 ways to help:
There are several measures you can recommend or explore to support your loved one:
To counteract their hunger pangs, take the reins in the kitchen and whip up delicious meals packed with vitamins. Yes, fresh fruit and veg are key – but certain carbohydrates can actually stimulate serotonin levels.
For example; oatmeal, omelettes with egg whites, lean chicken or turkey and delicious snacks like popcorn, peanut butter and nuts are all feel-good foods. Avoid coffee, as caffeine has the reverse effect and suppresses serotonin.
Drinking water throughout the day is important, especially if your loved one is already feeling lethargic or low. Dehydration can increase fatigue and headaches.3
Step into the daylight
Natural daylight supports the body’s circadian clock and makes falling asleep at night easier. It’s easy to feel at a loss when you, and your loved one, travel into work – and leave – in darkness. A lunchtime walk is a great solution – why don’t you challenge them to see how many steps they can do in a day?
If you work together or nearby, meet to do this together and break up the working day. Suggest outdoor plans at the weekend, like a romantic woodland stroll to soak up the sun’s rays.
Whether it’s walking to work rather than taking the bus, a long cycle at the weekend or housework, finding opportunities to exercise and raise your heartrate can work wonders on energy levels and overall mood.
Always have plans to look forward to
There’s nothing more exciting than an upcoming fun day or night out. Why not surprise your partner or family member with tickets to see their favourite musician? Or a little holiday in sunnier climes? You know them best, so think carefully about activities they’d enjoy – and close friends or family to potentially bring into the mix, if you feel they’d be up for it.
Work out their stress triggers
Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re feeling. If they snap, that’s OK. Just reassure them that you’re there to offer support and a fresh perspective. You might start to notice patterns in their behaviour that can help you take steps to manage the SAD symptoms.
A sleep routine
Quality sleep is crucial for mental and physical wellbeing – all the more so when shorter daylight hours change our internal body clocks, potentially resulting in SAD symptoms.
Create a calm sleeping environment by turning your room into a dark, quiet, clean and comfortable haven. Introduce a lovely wind-down routine; you could run a bath for them, listen to a podcast or read in each other’s company. Limiting screen time and avoiding caffeine goes a long way towards helping you both switch off
Adapt your home
Keep your curtains open for as long as possible so your home feels bright and airy – you want to maximise their exposure to daylight. Light boxes, which simulate sunshine, are a practical solution, proving to be effective for some.
Most light boxes emit an intensity of 10,000 lux and treatment will take 30 minutes to one hour a day. To put this into context, the intensity of a summer day can be 100,000 lux.2
Your loved one should start to feel a difference within three to four days. Light boxes come in many forms, including alarm clocks, so can easily be integrated into your home.
Try talking therapies
Attending counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions for SAD can completely change you’re their outlook, encouraging them to think positively rather than feel anxious.
Suggest an initial chat with an expert and offer to join. Sessions like these are a popular solution that can make such a difference.
Suggest seeing a GP
If their SAD symptoms are starting to cripple them, or strategies you hoped would work simply aren’t making a difference, why not suggest visiting a medical professional?
In severe cases of SAD, antidepressants may be prescribed. If they experience SAD every year, it’s worth seeing your GP well in advance of the winter months; antidepressants, if needed, are best taken before symptoms appear then continued through until spring.
It’s completely natural to worry about your loved one if they’re not themselves or you’re feeling the tension in your relationship. Don’t underestimate the power of your support, though; by taking these steps, you can help banish the winter blues.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Royal College of Psychiatrists
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: An overview of assessment and treatment approaches – National Library of Medicine
- Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers: National Library of Medicine