In recognition of World Mental Health Day – 10th of October 2017, one of our associates has shared her personal take on mental health and cognitive performance.
I am a long-time sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Diagnosed in my twenties after moving 900km north from the ever-sunny South of France where I grew up, let me share some tips I’ve learned over the last 15 years on how to better manage the condition…
- Cut yourself some slack! Unless you migrate closer to the Equator, you will always find winters more difficult, your energy levels will be lower and you’ll have good and bad days. But you shouldn’t beat yourself up for not being on top of your game, keep your head above water if that’s all you can manage, and know that it is okay to just be surviving for a while. After all, many species do slow down in winter!
- Know your mood cycles and go out! For me, it takes five successive days of low light to start feeling depressed, but only three of bright blue skies to feel like myself again! So make the most of those sunny days, take off your sun glasses, roll up your sleeves, and go for a walk. If you can, try and escape for a couple of short sun breaks in the winter months. It doesn’t need to be on an exotic island, even a long weekend in Bournemouth might do the trick – but you want to be outside to expose yourself to the light!
- Get yourself a SAD box. I bought my full spectrum light box 10 years ago, and on a dull winter morning, it is the thing that gets me out of bed. Turning it on makes my mind smile and lift the weight off my shoulders.
- Add some sunshine vitamin to your diet. Talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements for SAD. For me they work best if I start taking them a month or so before the time when I know SAD is likely to affect me (usually when the clocks go back).
- Look after your brain. Finally, although it may be easier to look after yourself when your energy is high and the sun is shining, winter is the time when you should be especially vigilant about how you treat your brain. Ensuring your brain is at its best through healthy nutrition, quality sleep, hydration and exercise will make those dark thoughts less likely to pop up and give you better coping mechanisms for when they do occur. Have a look at our research surrounding cognition here.