To put it bluntly, January is a pretty rubbish month. Christmas has been and gone, the fun of New Year seems like it was months ago, and you don’t think you can ever look at another turkey sandwich again. To add to all that, we have dark evenings, cold weather and of course the dreaded tax return (if you haven’t done it already, that is!). 
There’s no denying that it can be hard to get back into the swing of things in January when you’re employed, so when you run your own business it is a hundred times harder. Working alone at home can be especially difficult, as you don’t see anyone all day apart from the cat or dog and maybe your family, if they’re not too busy caught up in their own returns to work and/or school! 

The winter blues can be an actual illness when its symptoms are serious 

SAD – or seasonal affective disorder – is estimated to affect around 3-6% of people in the UK between December and February each year. Although there are around 12-13% of people who admit suffering from the ‘winter blues’, SAD is recognised as an illness, and is treated as such. 
 
In its most severe form, sufferers may feel suicidal, but most are affected with less severe (but still serious) symptoms such as persistent depressive moods, unusually heightened appetite, irritability and even a decreased libido. People experiencing SAD are also less likely to want to socialise with friends and family, and some don’t even want to leave the house. 

SAD is serious: do not ignore the symptoms 

If you suspect you or someone close to you is suffering from seasonal affective disorder, it is important to get professional advice from a GP. They may put you onto medication if you are particularly low, or if not, you may be referred for a course of therapy – this can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and light therapy amongst other types. 

If it is just the winter blues, here’s what you can do to beat it 

First of all, make the most of those crisp, cold yet bright days. The sun is lower in the sky in winter meaning that its rays are more widespread, which can give the illusion of it being brighter outside than it actually is – win! Of course it’ll still be super chilly so wrap up warm when you head out for a brisk walk in the fresh air. 
The more exercise you can do the better, but just a walk everyday will help your mood. If you don’t like walking or find it boring, maybe attempt a fun gym class like Zumba – or if you’re totally gymphobic you could invest in an exercise bike or a treadmill at home, or at the very least, an exercise DVD or app. 
 
If there’s no way of getting out during the day (we get it – work can be much busier than usual after Christmas with all the catching up you need to do!) then at least try to work near a sun-facing window during the bright hours – and crank the heating up. If you close your eyes and really imagine hard enough, you could pretend you’re on a beach in Barbados. Well, it’s worth trying! 
 
There’s no denying that we all feel lazy and lethargic at times, and it seems to get worse in winter. When we’re feeling like this, it can be tempting to reach for stodgy comfort food – big bowls of cheesy pasta, delicious takeaway pizza, decadent desserts with cream and custard – and of course the leftover Christmas choccies. There’s no reason you can’t have a hearty meal in winter – a warming stew is amazing – but try to load up on extra fruit and veggies, and keep your water intake up. A colourful, veg-packed meal full of vitamins will make you feel happier in general – and you will be getting rid of that inevitable post-Christmas bloat too. Win, win! 
Feeling sleepy often leads to caffeine cravings, and while the occasional cup of coffee in the morning won’t do much damage overall, it’s best to cut down as much as you can on caffeine – and to avoid sugary energy drinks all together. Even though the short-term effects include alertness and higher concentration levels, such drinks can keep you awake at night and the sugar is no good for your body either. 
 
Emotional wellbeing is fantastic for your physical health, so don’t forget to take time out for yourself as well. January is the perfect time to start a new self-care regime. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but just ensuring you take some time for yourself everyday is priceless. You could take up a new hobby like crafting or writing a journal, or maybe you prefer to more active – perhaps join a running club or simply ensure you get out for a jog each morning. 
Last but certainly not least, it is so important to socialise. You may not have the time to have long, lazy lunches now the festive season is over but there’s no reason you can’t meet up with your friends for a coffee and a catch up – and a brisk walk, of course! Spend time with your loved ones as much as you can – arrange date nights with your partner or days out with your family – and enjoy life! 

More information about SAD 

If you think you might be suffering with seasonal affective disorder, you are absolutely not alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or loved one, and talk. It’s 2020 – mental health should no longer be a taboo subject, and the more we talk about it, the easier it gets to face it. 
 
There are plenty of resources online regarding SAD; here are some of our recommendations… 
The NHS website is your first place to start 
The MIND website is also a brilliant resource 
The Age UK website is great for older people with SAD symptoms (but it can affect anyone!) 
 
 
 
 
Written by 
 
Nicola J Sorrell - 
Effective Accounting 
 
Founder | Xero Champion | IR35 Expert 
Tagged as: Health, Self-Employed
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