Wellbeing: Could you have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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The dark, cold days can have an impact on teachers’ mental health. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Teachers are often in school very early and leave after the sun has set, so could it be that they are disproportionately impacted?

The NHS describes SAD as a “depression that comes and goes, following a seasonal pattern”.  Symptoms include a persistent low mood; irritability; feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness; lethargy; sleeping longer than usual; finding getting out of bed difficult; and craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.

Coping with SAD

1. Go outside as much as possible. Yes, volunteer for that outside duty! Alternatively, go for a brisk walk at lunch or break time. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression. 

2. Take regular exercise; a gentle walk or bike ride will do – you don’t need to start training for the next marathon. If you can access a green space or running water, take advantage of this (connecting with nature is thought to improve feelings of wellbeing).

3. Invest in a lightbox or a dawn simulating alarm clock. Some people with SAD have found sitting by a light box for approximately 30 minutes each morning improves their mood. The boxes produce a bright light, simulating the sunlight that’s missing during the darker winter months.

4. Speak to your GP. If they diagnose you with SAD, they may recommend talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling; and/or they may prescribe an antidepressant.

5. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, particularly focusing on vitamins D and B12, lean proteins (such as white fish and lentils), folic acid (found in leafy greens, porridge oats, sunflower seeds, lentils and soy beans), and berries.

This has been adapted from an article in the TES by Gemma Corby

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