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SAD: Weatherman Derek Brockway on Combating Winter Sadness

As a weather person I love telling people about the changing seasons – from heatwaves to blizzards and everything in between.

But as the days get shorter I – like many others – feel low. I think I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The cold, wet weather means I have less energy and, with the clocks going back on Sunday, I know I’m not the only one.

I spoke to some other people who feel the same, including one woman who uses cold water dipping to help.

What is SAD?

Around two million people across the UK have SAD, also known as “winter depression” due to it being amplified in the winter.

It can have a big impact, with the main symptoms being similar to those of depression.

These can include low mood, low energy and eating more, particularly chocolate or high carbohydrate foods.

SAD is about three times more common in women than it is in men, according to The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In the most severe cases, a GP may prescribe antidepressants.

Elaine Bowen, 71, from Clydach Vale in the Rhondda, has always struggled at this time of year and took medication for 30 years to help with the symptoms.

‘I start to panic when October comes’

Elaine described “crying, over-eating” as well as feeling “unsociable, hiding away, staying in bed”.

“I start to panic when October comes and I think oh here we go, I can’t face this,” she added.

“People say ‘Christmas party’ and I just don’t want to know. I just want to hibernate, I want to hide.”

But then Elaine discovered cold water swimming.

I met with her at Fairy Pool, on Pen Pych mountain near Treorchy, with a group called the Rhondda Valley Dippers.

“I’ve always enjoyed cold water dipping, but last year I started to take it seriously when I realised how much better I felt in my mental health,” she said.

“I realised I feel good, so I weaned myself off the medication.”

During a charity swim last December, Elaine said she “couldn’t believe” she was laughing and “not under the duvet like in previous winters”.

“I thought, this isn’t a coincidence,” she added.

Another “dipper” is Leighton Lee, 51, from Porth, who said the feeling was “hard to describe”.

“I can come up here or anywhere feeling quite low, a bit pessimistic, negative, all the things that come with SAD and functioning mentally at 30 to 40%, you know, struggling,” he said.

“And I can get in there and come out and think the world’s my oyster.”

I wanted to see if cold water dipping would work for me.

I was a bit nervous but I decided to go in and was coached by Elaine, Leighton and the other experienced dippers to get into the cold water safely, by taking it slow and using breathing techniques to cope with the temperature.

The water and the great company certainly did lift my spirits.

Can SAD be treated?

Talking therapies and light boxes are commonly used to help with symptoms like mine.

Dr Maria Atkins, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales, said there were “various theories” about why people felt lower in winter, mostly to do with chemicals in the brain.

“There’s not a great deal of scientific evidence for this, but there is a lot of work going on in this area,” Dr Atkins said.

She said there were steps that could be taken if a person suspected they had SAD including changes to lifestyle, such as diet and physical activity.

“I think it’s really important to inform yourself about the condition,” she said.

She said if someone had “really persistent low mood and other symptoms” for more than two weeks, they should speak to a GP.

So if, like me, you are not looking forward to the shorter, darker days of winter, I have found there are many different ways to access help.

And remember – you do not have to deal with this alone.

Source : BBC