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Help & Advice

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

By the end of October, the nights will be longer and the days will be chillier and shorter. The reduced daylight can leave some people feeling like hibernating. Many feel life is more difficult during these darker months.

At HOPELineUK, we hear from young people (under the age of 35) who share how this change in the seasons can leave them struggling with low mood, symptoms of depression and thoughts of suicide.

Some of these young people may have a diagnosis of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but for those without a diagnosis, they can still experience feelings of despair, a lack of interest in things, a craving for carbohydrate-heavy foods, tiredness, affected sleeping patterns and increased thoughts of despair or suicide.

Whilst it’s impossible to stop the seasons changing, you can take steps to cope with these changes.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Accept that this is something that cannot be changed – there’s some peace in acceptance. Although the change of light and dark may affect how you feel, try and shift your focus to how you can manage through the changing seasons, rather than thinking about the seasons themselves. Work out what can make you feel better during autumn and winter instead.
  • Keep the lights on – if a lack of natural light affects your mood, then make sure you or your family are stocked up on bulbs so that you can keep a sense of light indoors.
  • Keep warm during autumn and winter and eat well. Keep colds at bay by eating fresh fruit and vegetables – especially onions, garlic, chillies, beets and squashes. Stock up on hot drinks and get some good warm clothes – jumpers, cardigans, hooded tops, extra socks, slippers. These needn’t be expensive – try the charity shops or go online and seek out a bargain.
  • Spend time outdoors and keep active – make the most of the natural light, especially around midday, when even a short walk can help. If you are inside sit near the windows and close the curtains when the light grows dim.
  • Try and use the darker months as a way to spend more productive time indoors. Clean and tidy your room or home, get rid of things you don’t need any longer. When was the last time you moved stuff around? Painted the walls? Pale colours can help reflect the light from outside and the darker months can be a good time to make your home as comfortable as possible. You can also read and cook more, maybe even learn something new like a short-course online? You could also look into volunteering with a local charity or organisation – see what you can get involved in to introduce a new focus during autumn and winter.
  • You can also use this time to focus on the arrival of a new year, focus on what you’d like to be different, what you’d like to change – and start looking into who can support you with that. Why not pick three, small, positive changes you’d like to make in your life and start thinking about how you’ll make those changes or who can help you with them.

If you’re 35 or under and feel that the darker days are causing you to feel suicidal or increasing existing thoughts of suicide, or you have concerns for someone else under the age of 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can contact HOPELineUK by phone, text or email and talk to our suicide prevention advisors. HOPELineUK staff can listen and give short-term advice around staying safe from suicide. We can help you to manage thoughts of suicide, identify ways to cope and work on a safe-for-now plan.

HOPELineUK is a service dedicated to providing short-term advice and support for young people. The service is staffed by mental health professionals. We offer practical advice, support and, where necessary, intervention for young people up to the age of 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, or those concerned about others with thoughts of suicide.

You can access specific support around S.A.D. from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) http://www.sada.org.uk . If you feel you might be experiencing symptoms of S.A.D. we would encourage you to talk to a doctor about this, or telephone NHS 111.


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Suicide is the biggest killer of young people - male and female - under 35 in the UK. Many thousands more attempt or contemplate suicide, harm themselves or suffer alone, afraid to speak openly about how they are feeling.

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