For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter has well and truly arrived. The days are getting shorter and the nights are drawing in, making it all the more difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. Whether you're a winter-lover or a bit of a scrooge, now's an important time to take extra care of your physical and mental well-being. Teaming up as a family to banish the winter blues can make it easier to get through the long dark winter months.
In this week's blog, we'll be talking through ways the whole family can stay healthy and positive over the winter period. We'll also look at Seasonal Affective Disorder, and how it can affect children and young people as well as parents during this season.
Stock up on Vitamin D
One of the hardest parts about winter is saying goodbye to the sun. Lack of sunlight makes it trickier to get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is super important for healthy bones and teeth, nutrient absorption and brain development and function. Some studies have shown that getting enough can improve your mental health too.
Official UK guidelines now actually recommend that we all take daily vitamin D supplements, especially in autumn and winter, as surveys have shown that most of us aren't getting enough. While we can get some vitamin D from foods like oily fish, eggs, and mushrooms, we can't get what we need from diet alone. Do some research online or have a chat with your family GP for recommendations on supplements.
This might sound like an obvious one, but it really is that important! Getting out and about and moving your body acts as an instant pick-me-up, even in the dead of winter. If it snows where you live, why not make the most of your new environment by taking your young ones sledging, hold snowman building competitions or a good old-fashioned snow-ball fight. After all, who says keeping active in winter has to mean pounding away at a treadmill indoors?
Start a new project or hobby
Winter weather can have its perks, but let's face it - nothing compares to being cosied up indoors when it's freezing outside. It's normal, natural and understandable to spend more time inside over the winter months. So now's a great time to start a new project or hobby to keep you busy and motivated when the weather's not great outside. Stock up on art supplies for kid-friendly craft projects, do some family baking, or start that blog you've talked about for years!
Embrace the season
Winter can be dark and gloomy, but it can also be pretty magical. There are some simple family pleasures you just don't get in spring and summer, like cosying up by the fire, making loaded hot chocolates on a cold day or watching the first snow fall out your window. Embrace the winter season by slowing down, enjoying more time with your family, friends and loved ones, and taking time for some gratitude and reflection after a busy year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects 10-20% of us as the dreaded winter months approach. According to the NHS, SAD is 'a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern'. Symptoms usually develop during winter, although some people do develop SAD in the spring and summer.
SAD is most commonly diagnosed in young people in their 20s, and it usually decreases as you get older. Women are also more likely to experience SAD, but men with SAD may have more severe symptoms. Symptoms of SAD can include:
- a persistently low mood
- loss of interest or motivation for everyday activities
- feelings of despair, or feeling worthless
- feeling lethargic
- sleeping much more than usual, sleeping during the day, and/or finding it hard to get up in the morning
Effects of SAD
As a parent, Seasonal Affective Disorder can make it really difficult to cope with your everyday responsibilities. You may feel overwhelmed, drained of energy or guilty for feeling this way when you have children to care for. If it becomes difficult to manage, it's important to speak to a medical professional who will be able to advise on treatment or lifestyle changes that will help.
Children and teenagers can also be affected by the condition, although it's more commonly talked about among adults. Check out our top 5 free mental health apps for young people.
The research on this is limited at the moment, though; it's much harder to diagnose SAD in children because of the time it takes to identify patterns. If your child is showing symptoms of SAD, it's a good idea to book an appointment with your GP as they may be experiencing depression or another mental or physical health problem.