15 November 2013

Self-help for people with Season Affective Disorder

For people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, autumn and winter can be a challenging time. However, by introducing some simple lifestyle changes, sufferers may notice a significant improvement in their symptoms.

  • Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial.
  • Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible.
  • Sit near to windows when you are indoors.
  • Take plenty of regular exercise, particularly outdoors and in daylight, if possible.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress.
  • Talk to your family and friends about SAD so that they understand why your mood changes during the winter. This will enable them to help and support you more effectively.

13 November 2013

How to have a stress-free Christmas

Tips on staying chilled

It might be shopping, family, cooking, cleaning the house, kids on holiday or travel, something is bound to make you feel stressed. Remember, it is not the event that creates the stress – it is the thoughts about the event which result in feeling good or bad. So to prepare for the season the following tips will help.

  • Make a list of the people you need to buy a present for Christmas
  • Have a budget
  • Get family members to help with ideas and shopping
  • KIS – Keep it simple (i.e. SnappySnaps has a 3 for the price of 2 during November on personalized items. It looks good, it is a good price, and the recipient will love it. I got one for every member of my family and I know they will love it. You can put different pictures on different items, and the staff are so helpful)

Love them or hate them, they are family. You can not change them, so don't waste your energy trying. What you can do is choose not to get wound up this year. Repeat after me: "I will care a whole lot more about a whole lot less". When your mother says to you: "Dear, are you sure your want a second helping" or such like; stop, take a deep breath and think to yourself, "I am calm and chilled".


  • If you don't enjoy it, get the family members who do involved. Ask friends and family coming to bring something; the dessert, an appetiser, a bottle of sparkle. They would bring something anyway, so ask for what you want. It will help them and you at the same time. Again KIS. It does not have to be a huge traditional meal. You can create your own traditional meal.
  • Use M&S or John Lewis and order some simple starters. Not too expensive and it takes the pressure off of you.
  • If you are cooking, ask the others to do the cleaning up. It is only fair.

Cleaning up:

  • Ask in advance for help from the family. Set a date and time and ask everyone to have a power hour to clean their area and the family room or kitchen. Put on good motivating music and blitz the place.
  • Same for after the event... Get your family to help clean up.

Kids on holiday:
You know it is coming and if you need cover arrange it now with other friends with children. Trade off or get them involved in a project or lesson. Plan now so you have it off your mind. Ask you children for ideas as well.


  • Plan again when to pack, what, and make a list. MAKE LISTS! It helps you to stay organized and you can see your progress at the same time.
  • You can't control the weather, delayed planes or tired kids and spouses. You can once again choose to get stressed and frustrated or be laid back and chilled. So be prepared. Have activities to do, write out Christmas cards, do your life wheel for 2014, answer emails, tweet, read a good book, the list is endless. To get upset once again just wastes your energy and ruins your holiday.

Hope these ideas help all of you have a wonderful holiday season… ho, ho, ho!

11 November 2013

The benefits of exercise in people with depression

Regular exercise is known to have significant benefits for people with mental health problems such as depression. Exercise can help you to recover from depression and it can also prevent depression from occurring in the first place.

If you have never exercised before, or you are returning to exercise after a long time off, visit your GP for a health check-up and advice about how much activity you should do.

Read more: (NHS Choices) Exercise for depression

Recommended reading:

09 November 2013

10 ways to beat the winter blues

When the sun is shining, people tend to feel happier and more energetic. Conversely, when it is dark and gloomy, people tend to lack energy and feel less sociable. The amount of sunlight that you get can affect your mood, appetite, energy levels and sex drive. If this sounds familiar, you may have a milder form of SAD called winter blues (people with SAD have more severe depressive symptoms).

10 tips to help combat the winter blues

Keep active
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.

Get outside
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

Keep warm
If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, seek help from your GP. Being cold makes you more depressed. It has also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).

Eat healthily
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and vitamin D supplements. Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs.

See the light
Light therapy can be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day. Light boxes give out very bright light that is at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. They are not available on the NHS and cost around £100 or more.

Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD. It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.

See your friends and family
It has been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits.

Talk it through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. See your GP for information on what is available locally on the NHS and privately.

Join a support group
Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it's like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable. SADA is the UK's only registered charity dedicated to seasonal affective disorder. It costs £12 (£7 for concessions) to join and you'll receive an information pack, regular newsletters, discounts on products such as light boxes and contacts for telephone support.

Seek help
If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.

Source NHS Choices: Beating the winter blues

08 November 2013

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, is a type of depression that, as its name suggests, follows a seasonal pattern. The episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time each year, which - in most cases - occurs during the winter.

It is thought that SAD affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children. The symptoms are most likely to appear in people aged between 18 and 30.

In people with milder depressive symptoms, the condition is often referred to as "winter blues".


The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood at present. However, it is believed to be tied to a reduced exposure to sunlight during the autumn and winter months. Research has shown that sunlight can affect some of the brain's chemicals and hormones, but - at present - it is not clear what this effect is. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls mood, appetite and sleep, which can affect how you feel.

In SAD sufferers, the combination of a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals prevents the hypothalamus working from properly. The lack of light is thought to affect the production of the melatonin and serotonin, as well as affecting the body's internal clock (circadian rhythm), which regulates important biological processes throughout the day.


As with other types of depression, two of the main symptoms of SAD are mood swings and a generalised sensation of apathy. Other symptoms include a noticeable decrease in activity and sleeping more. The condition is, at times, called 'winter depression', due to the fact that it is at that time of year when symptoms typically manifest themselves and are more severe.

Often the onset of symptoms will start in autumn, as the days start to get shorter, and are most critical from December to February. In  the majority of cases, the symptoms of SAD start to diminish in spring, before eventually disappearing.

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Feelings of despair
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Indecisiveness
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • A reduced sex drive
  • Being less active than normal
  • Feeling tired and sleep more than normal (hypersomnia)
  • Feeling lethargic (lack energy)
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Having an increased appetite and eating more than usual (hyperphagia)


There are several types of treatment for Season Affective Disorder, amongst which the most common are: cognitive behavioural therapy; counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy; the use of antidepressants, and - quite frequently - light therapy. If you present any of the symptoms described, visit your GP, who will be able to discern what the best form of treatment is for you. Although the condition can, at times, make day-to-day activities difficult, it can be overcome with the correct treatment.

Source: NHS choices: Seasonal Affective Disorder

07 November 2013

What is important in your life?

If I ask a client, "What is important to you in your life?", I get automatic answers. Then if you ask again, "What specifically about each answer is so important to you?", then I start to hear what their values and beliefs are. It is like the old joke with Ms. Universe, "I want world peace", but when you get down to it, it is the safety they value for themselves, not world peace.

Writing down what you think is important to you in your life right now and then break it down more with "why".  You will begin to understand more how you are moving your life forward and why.  It is so vital you follow your true goals because you will go farther in with your drive and be happier doing it.

In another 6 months time, do it again.  The list will change as you change and discover your true passions in life.  And we should change as we grow as individuals and our life circumstances grow.

Have fun with learning about your true passions and focus on how to achieve them.  Life is an adventure and we are the explorers.

That's all folks.

How to fall asleep

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Then the following few tips should help you drift off to sleep. I am not talking about having a regular routine, using lavender under your pillow, or having a warm bath before going to bed. This is about when you are in bed and your mind starts to wander.

With your eyes closed do one of the following:

  1. Think of all the places you found sleep came quickly (childhood bed, holiday, on a train journey being rocked back and forth like a baby).
  2. Count backwards from 300 and if you mix up a number start again.
  3. Imagine you are looking at a fireplace and watching all the colours within the flame.  Notice the gentle reflection of the glow of the fire in the room and how it makes you feel.  Then focus on the fire again until you "feel" tired and imagine reclining back and closing your eyes.  (This deepens your relaxation).
  4. Write down your worries and put them in a drawer so they can sleep for the night and you can decide in the morning if you still want to wake up those worries or let them sleep forever in the drawer.
  5. Tighten and release all the muscles in your body starting at your feet up to your head.  Going up your whole body slowly.  Then when you get to the top, start again at the feet (not squeezing and releasing) but this time imagine each muscle is relaxing even further to the point like you "feel" you can't even move a leg or an arm.
  6. Imagine or focus on doing something so boring you want to go to sleep instead i.e. driving down an endless straight road.
  7. Think of 10 things you are thankful for in your life and then say a mantra, "I easily and quickly fall into sleep".

Sleep well!