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Seasonal affective disorder: Tips to avoid SAD and beat the winter blues

Carol Rääbus, Tuesday July 11, 2017 - 14:52 EST
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If you're in the southern states of Australia, vitamin D supplements are often needed through winter. - ABC

The cold, dark, grey days of winter can be depressing.

But did you know there are some things you can try to keep those down days from turning into the winter blues?

Dr Milford McArthur, chair of the Tasmanian branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, confirmed the lack of light in winter could seriously affect some people's moods.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the name given to the depressive state some people experience during this time.

Get up with the sun



is a key sign of a mood disorder such as depression, Dr McArthur said.

"SAD sometimes is a little atypical from normal depression," he said.

"Sometimes there's a reversal of the more common symptoms; instead of not sleeping well, people tend to oversleep; instead of losing weight, people tend to gain weight.

"We would always tell our patients who have clear mood disorders to try and have regular hours.

"It's much better, if you can, to be awake during the day and asleep at night, that's the best thing."

Dr McArthur said some people tried things such as lightboxes, which have a blue or white light, but getting natural sunlight was free and there was still debate about how effective the boxes were on moods.



Fish oil and vitamin D

There is some thought that a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids can alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

"I usually suggest to my patients with mood disorders they do take fish oils, that is the omega 3 fatty acids, and probably vitamin D," Dr McArthur said.

"But quite a lot of Tasmanians are low in vitamin D, so it's hard to know how important that is because it seems to be so common."

Keep up the exercise

And while it can be harder to find the motivation in the cold, keeping active with exercise is a good way to help you stay mentally healthy as well.

"Exercise is important," Dr McArthur said.



"There is some evidence that exercise is nearly as good as an antidepressant if you're going to treat someone with depression.

"People should always start off with their exercise, being up during the day, [getting] morning light, perhaps their fish oils and vitamin D.

"Who knows for certain if it will work, but it's probably not much to lose, not much harm. If it's helpful, why not?"

And if the winter blues get too much, speak to your GP.


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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