Some people who struggle with alcohol abuse may find it easier to control their drinking habits during the summer. Still, when the weather turns cold and dark over winter, their behaviour escalates.
This may be because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition where an individual becomes depressed due to seasonal changes each year. In fact, as part of their Medical Misinformation campaign, the team at Delamere have revealed that SAD is one of the UK’s top health concerns.
With this in mind, we’ve asked Martin Preston, founder and chief executive at Delamere, to explain why particularly bad weather in the winter may be a trigger for alcoholics.
Martin Preston says: ‘Winter can be a particularly challenging time of year, for those in recovery or trying to stay sober because the dark and cold nights can lead us to experience SAD.’
‘SAD is a depressive condition experienced by individuals because of the dip in serotonin levels that occur when we aren’t exposed to sunshine. This can lead to a whole range of unpleasant symptoms including sleeping for longer, experiencing a loss of interest in day-to-day activities and feeling generally anxious, irritable and low.’
He added: ‘Individuals that struggle with alcohol abuse, therefore, may feel more of a need to turn to drink as a way to self medicate and curb the depressive feelings that come with SAD. It isn’t just alcoholics that may turn to drink when experiencing SAD, though. Casual drinkers may find themselves reaching for that extra glass of wine at the end of a day to ease the stress and feelings of isolation that come with bad weather.’
‘While it may give that person an initial feeling of relief, drinking to curb feelings of SAD can often have the opposite effect. Alcohol is a depressant, so it can leave a person feeling more depressed than before drinking.’
Tips on how to manage SAD:
Surround yourself with daylight
As we head into the dark winter months, it’s essential to make the most of daylight as much as possible. If you work indoors, open any curtains or blinds to let in as much light as possible. Another beneficial thing to do is work by a window to feel closer to nature and the outside world. Sprucing up the environment you’re in will also help. For example, you could invest in houseplants or decorate your home with wall art to engage your senses.
Maintain your daily schedule
The seasons are changing, but that doesn’t mean your schedule has to. If you’re used to going for a morning run, stick to this routine. The weather may be colder, but you can always wrap up. If you’ve gotten into the habit of going into the office more over the summer months, carry this on despite the chillier mornings. Setting yourself goals for the day will also put you more motivated.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which positively affects your mood. So, make it a habit of shaking away those winter blues with regular physical activity. If intensive exercise doesn’t sound like the best thing, perhaps make it a target of going out for a walk every day – the fresh air will do you wonders! You may also benefit from engaging in mindful practices such as meditation to combat stress levels.
Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet is undoubtedly a positive step you can take to manage your seasonal affective disorder. After all, your brain functions better when you eat well. As the weather gets colder, you could also use this time to make warm, hearty recipes in the kitchen. From pies to spicy curries, be as experimental as you want. Be sure to drink enough water to keep you hydrated and energised throughout the day.
Keep in regular with loved ones
Another common symptom of the seasonal affective disorder is finding it hard to stay in touch with friends and family. While it can be pretty tempting to remain secluded in your bubble, it’s essential to know that reaching out to loved ones will make you feel a little less in your head. With this in mind, make it a habit of regularly messaging people and organising catch-ups from time to time.
Amp up your self-care routine
Finally, having the best self-care plan for yourself is essential for those especially tough days. In making this, think about what makes you happy. This could be your favourite series or perhaps something as simple as running a bath. Whatever it is, make sure your self-care plan is guaranteed to boost your mood or at least provide you with a sense of comfort.