New Year Anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): A War on Two Fronts

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By Callum Woodward

While the new year can be a fresh start for a lot of people hoping to keep to resolutions and hit the ground running – there are those of us who feel like they can’t get off the ground to begin with.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is different to the kind of depression that people can suffer with. As its name suggests, it fluctuates between seasons. Typically, it is stronger in the winter months when the days are shorter, and the sunlight is lacking. SAD’s symptoms are almost identical to those of general depression: persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.

What makes SAD different is that lack of sunlight I mentioned earlier. It can sap all of your energy and all you’ll want to do is stay in bed all day and neglect yourself – waiting for it to pass. You won’t be in the mood to eat good food and be active and so you can begin to spiral downwards.

New Year anxiety is the idea that while people are getting excited for the year to come, other people are still being weighed down by the issues that they were struggling with during the last year. It can make you feel stagnant, left behind and useless.

Couple this with the symptoms of SAD and also the ongoing cost-of-living crisis – and this year is off to a very difficult start for someone who is already struggling to keep their head above water.

It is hard to try and pick yourself up and move forward when you feel like you’re being attacked by two different things. An incredibly useful tip is for you is to compartmentalise – take it all one little piece at a time and make a plan for how you’re going to manage these symptoms.

For SAD, these can be things like:

  • Getting as much natural sunlight as possible – even taking a ten minute walk.
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Making your indoor environments as bright and naturally lit as possible.
  • Take time to sit and listen to nature

For New Year Anxiety, the following can help:

  • Set yourself smaller, achievable goals to get done in the early months of the year (saving a little bit of extra money, reading a new book, starting a new hobby).
  • Taking the time to think about what excites you about the future (this could even be as simple as thinking about a new film or album coming out).

Also, with any kind of difficulty you may be having with your mental health – something that really helps is talking to someone. Getting your worries off of your chest and getting it out in the open can make it feel like a weight has been lifted and you’ll see a difference.

For more information about mental health and ways to find help and manage your symptoms, visit https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/

For further reading:

Seasonal Affective Disorder

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/

If you feel you could benefit from talking to a psychodynamic counsellor or psychotherapist please don’t hesitate to Contact The Lighthouse Counselling Partnership to find out more.

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