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How to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression associated with changes in weather and is most common during autumn and winter.

The exact cause of SAD is unknown but scientists believe it’s linked to a lack of sunlight. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • A persistent low mood
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty concentrating

Research suggests that 1 in 15 people in the UK are affected by SAD – where symptoms can vary in severity and duration.

In this guide, we provide you with ways you can maintain your wellbeing as the seasons change.


Managing SAD

  • Spend some time outside

    On cold days, you may be tempted to go into hibernation mode, but getting out and about is a great way to increase your exposure to natural light. Spending time outdoors will help your body to create vitamin D – necessary for regulating our mood and giving us the energy we need to get through the day. So try to build daily strolls into your routine, to help you capture some sunlight.

  • Try light therapy

    It might not always be possible to go outside, but you can brighten your day with artificial lighting. Try shopping around for a light-therapy lamp – they're inexpensive and help to regulate melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) and increase the production of serotonin (known as a feel-good chemical). This can go a long way in enhancing your mood, preventing and alleviating symptoms of SAD.

  • Choose your foods carefully

    It can be tempting to indulge in quick and easy, ready-to-eat meals that are often high in calories or carbohydrates if you’re craving a little warmth. Infuse a healthy dose of vitamin B into your diet by adding fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein sources such as fish, meat and eggs to your breakfast, lunch or dinner. Maintaining a balanced diet will help you to sleep better and improve your energy levels.

  • Exercise regularly

    When the temperature drops, curling up and hiding under a blanket can seem a lot more appealing than exercising. But by pushing yourself to work those muscles, you’ll not only start to feel warmer, you’ll also increase your serotonin and endorphin levels helping you to feel better. You could go for a lunchtime walk or do a little yoga – engaging in physical activity for 20 minutes or so each day is a great way to improve your mood and mental wellbeing.

  • Connect with others

    Socialising can be challenging when you’re not feeling your best, but it’s important to interact with people where you can. Keep in touch with friends and family members by using apps like Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp where you can ‘see’ each other via a video call. Staying connected is essential to your wellbeing and helps to prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation that can leave you in low spirits.

  • Get a good night’s sleep

    Seasonal changes can affect how well we sleep and after a restless night, it can be difficult to get through the day. Aim for between eight and nine hours’ rest per night – this way, you'll have time on your side if you don't settle in bed or fall asleep straight away. Getting the right amount of sleep is essential to our wellbeing and helps to improve energy levels.

  • Stick to a schedule

    You may be tempted to stay in bed, avoid physical activity, or eat more often – but resist the urge. Sticking to a regular schedule when it comes to sleep, exercise, and meals helps to keep your body’s internal clock balanced – essential for regulating emotions and bodily functions. 

Getting help and support

If you’re noticing persistent and unexplained changes in your mood, sleep or behaviour, try talking to a GP as soon as possible. The GP can carry out an assessment to determine whether you have SAD and advise you on any treatment, counselling or support you may need to help manage your symptoms. 

If you work, or have worked, for a UK bank and would like to speak to someone, please call our free and confidential Helpline on 0800 0234 834. We’re open 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

More support

  • Our support services

    The Bank Workers Charity exists to support current and former bank employees. Find out more about the services and support we provide.
  • My Possible Self

    My Possible Self is a research-led app which offers a holistic approach to mental health. It can help you to manage anxiety, tackle depression, ease stress and improve sleep.
  • Depression

    Low moods usually pass, but what about when you’re sad for weeks, months or longer? In this guide we explore what causes depression, what it can look like, and some of the treatments.

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