/ Winter blues

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L winter has come - on 06 Jan 2017
Does anyone have any experience of dealing with SAD? For the few years I've noticed that I always seem to get running injuries and down in the dumps and fat in the winter. I assumed I was down in the dumps because I was injured and unable to exercise, but perhaps It's the other way around? Perhaps the feeling down is why I can't motivate myself to run much and then I pick up an injury due to the infrequency of the exercise. Does this sound familiar to anyone? if so, how have you tried to address it? Do these "sun lamps" work? I've read lots of contradictory things about them and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of proper research.
kathrync - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:
I don't specifically get the winter blues (well, no more than normal anyway) but I do really struggle to get out of bed on winter mornings when it is still dark out.

A couple of years ago I bought myself a SAD alarm clock (one of the Lumie ones). It has a SAD lamp that comes on slowly over half an hour in the mornings. My partner moans about it because it always wakes him up before me - but on the other hand he says it is completely worthwhile because instead of hitting snooze 10 times (which would wake him up anyway), then getting up and being a grump because I am late, I tend to get straight up and be relatively cheerful in the mornings. So, not scientific, but a hit for me.

I am considering buying a lamp for my office as well.

Edited to add: technically, the clock I am describing is a "dawn simulator" and not a SAD light. This page has some information on the difference and about SAD lights: http://www.sad.org.uk/buying-a-sad-light/
Post edited at 15:42
captain paranoia - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

Getting fat may be an innate response to winter; like many animals lay down fat reserves to cover the scarcity of food over winter, humans may still have a natural desire to do the same. Not to mention over-consumption of rich food, drink and sweets over Christmas.

SAD lamps? Well, I know a number of people who use them and think they have a benefit at countering depression over winter. They're cheap, so even if it's only a placebo effect, it may be worth it.

General health? Maybe consider taking a vitamin D supplement?

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Pages/vitamin-D-sunlight.aspx
deepsoup - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:
> Do these "sun lamps" work?

I don't know.
But it might interest you to know that they currently have them in the aisle of wonder at Lidl:
http://www.lidl.co.uk/en/our-offers-2491.htm?action=showDetail&id=40587
Scarab9 - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

If I remember I'm going to get a SAD lamp for next winter. Left it a bit late this time and can't afford one right now. My biggest issue though is waking up so a while back I got a teasmade as coffee ready by my bed helps, and I use a sleep tracking app that helps by waking me up at the right point in my sleep cycle.

Anyway, on other stuff, I've had REALLY bad insomnia the last 3 weeks or so. Not being able to remotely drift off until 7am and getting an hour before I have to be up, or falling asleep ok ish at midnight but then bang awake at 2am and no more sleep that night. Totally screwed my body up in all manner of ways. I didn't make the connection until my friend mentioned the last time I'd complained about insomnia was about the same time last year and suggested maybe it was vit D deficiency.
I'd not considered it. I know about vit d and how a lot of people are pretty low on it especially over winter but didn't realise quite the length of symptoms you get from a deficiency.

Can't say for sure if it's helped as I only got the pills 2 days ago, but I did actually sleep the last two nights (not sure it would work that quick so probably coincidence) but certainly worth considering either way - they're a cheap fix if it works for you.
Hugh J - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:
I think SAD can be due to a lack of serotonin in the body. Anti-depressants are often perscribed for SAD. I've been on fluoxetine for a couple of months and although it's not for SAD and I have felt a lot happier than I usually do in the winter. There maybe other ways to boost serotonin levels.

Here's a link to a wiki pages about serotonin and SAD which might help. The SAD page suggests serotonin polymorphisms could play a role in SAD.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

Maybe the running injuries are due to colder temperatures?

But at least the days are slowly getting longer.
Post edited at 19:55
icnoble on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

I have seasonal affective disorder having had in the bouts of long periods of acute anxiety and depression for long periods from the end of October. At times things got so bad that I was close to suicide. A family member suggested that I may have sad and showed me a leaflet about it. I had all the classic symptoms and bought a light box. I also joined the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association and found out through them about the ssri class of antidepressants which suited me very. It took several years to learn how to manage the illness using both the light box and drugs, and now am relatively symptom free as long as I keep on the antidepressants. I get by on the minimum dose. I also moved house 2 years ago to one with a lot more natural light which has made a big difference to my well being. I meant to say I was diagnosed with sad about 18 years ago. If you decide to buy a light box get a big one!
Jon Stewart - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:
I am f*cking miserable during the winter. I guess you could give it a medical definition and treat it with drugs and what have you, but this isn't the way I think about it. I think the cause of the misery, in my case, is absolutely obvious.

In the summer, I do stuff that I enjoy, most days. I spend time outdoors, going climbing after work, spending time in the sun, go on exciting climbing trips (even if it's just a long day say to Gogarth) and do brilliant routes nearly every week. I'm fit and healthy, and life is generally OK.

In the winter, it's freezing cold, it's dark, it's pissing it down, I've got a cold or something worse about 30% of the time, including the fatigue that lasts for a week or two following each illness. I don't really do anything that's fun to speak of - the odd decent day's bouldering (but most of the outdoor climbing is stuff I've done a hundred times already, often on my own, mostly in a freezing gale on slightly damp rock) is about as good as it gets (I've got a winter sun trip booked this year for the first time, but not being a fan of polished bolted limestone, it's unlikely to be the highlight of my climbing year). Life just is objectively shit in the winter, because it lacks every activity that I enjoy.

I don't really buy the light box thing, except as a placebo. The cause of my winter misery is not about the wavelength of the light hitting my retinas, it's about the total lack of any kind of fulfilling activity - coupled with continual fatigue as my immune system fails to deal with the tumult of viruses in the environment.

On the serotonin issue, it's easy to over-simplify. The evidence that depression is connected to a lack of serotonin is that SSRIs work pretty well. But no one knows why. You can't just increase serotonin any old way to deal with depression (e.g. eating foods that have nutrients that will be converted to serotonin). SSRIs have a very specific action that leaves the molecules bouncing around in the synapses, and for reasons no one understands, this seems to result in better mood (in a statistically above average kind of way). Since I can see plenty of objective reasons for feeling like throwing myself off a cliff, tinkering with the neurochemistry isn't my approach to trying to alleviate it - I would rather make changes to my life so that I can actually spend some time enjoying myself and try to improve my physical health so that those objective reasons themselves are ameliorated, rather than just masking the psychological impact with drugs.

But this is a very personal take on the issue. Many people suffer depression without the same view of objective reasons, and the medicalisation/drug therapy approach is of course the best thing in many cases. My intuition is that as a society, we are rather quick to medicalise misery and treat it with drugs, when that isn't necessarily the only option, nor the best or most honest one.

Food for thought I hope.
Bets wishes,
Jon
Post edited at 23:02
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marsbar - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I think the time for anti depressants is the point where you totally absolutely just can't do anything about it without them. BTDTGTTS. But then, is is better if you can catch it before you get to that point? Probably. I've come to terms with and learnt how to manage my depression and if I can manage without the tablets now I will. I hope not to have to go back on them and to make the changes, but if I need to go back on them I wouldn't hesitate.

OP I haven't really bothered with a Sad light, but I also like the daylight alarm clock very much. A week of winter sun or skiing/snow boarding (cold but sunny) holiday seemed to help in the years when I have managed it. Also gives something to look forward to.
Jon Stewart - on 06 Jan 2017
In reply to marsbar:

> I think the time for anti depressants is the point where you totally absolutely just can't do anything about it without them.

Absolutely agree. From what I've seen in friends and family, if they can be used to get out of a state of paralysis into a state of making decisions and changes, they can be incredibly useful.

There are also perfectly good arguments to treat 'shit life syndrome' with antidepressants, even if it is obviously just masking the symptoms of a whole load of real stuff that is objectively not good.
Yanis Nayu - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to marsbar:

My daylight alarm clock worked really well by waking up my wife who in turn woke me up with sharp elbows and angry grumbling. That mechanism doesn't work after she's decanted herself into the spare room to get away from my snoring...

BnB - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

The day I discovered snowboarding was the day I stopped hating winter. Of course the same goes for skiing. An exhilarating hobby pursued in amazing scenery with the biggest slugs of sunlight you could wish for. Each outing capped off with an apres-ski song and dance. Adrenaline, serotonin and vitamin D in huge daily doses.

Back up a trip (or two) with regular winter mountaineering excursions, picking the best of the weather for that light-filled "topping out moment", and you have a recipe not just for surviving winter, but relishing it.

The drawbacks: this regime hungrily consumes both holiday allowance and cash!!
wbo - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come: one thing that makes a big difference is getting some light every day. If you go to workin thedark , home in the dark and have lunch at your desk you're stuffed. Try to go running lunchtime, or at least for a walk.

Injuries - shoes are mechanically different in the winter, when they're cold and wet - the midsole is harder, and often soaked with water so a lot less cushioning. Rotate between dry shoes if you're running every day, And try something soft, especially as off-road opportunities are reduced

Tall Clare - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

As others have said, get your Vit D levels checked - I've been tested and found to be very low over the last couple of winters. The symptoms for me were feeling very gloomy, feeling dizzy, and strangely sore feet... I take 50 squigglegrams (symbol looks like the mju symbol) of Vit D3 every day and within a week find myself feeling much better.
shuffle - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

No experience of SAD specifically, but I have had a couple of spells of quite bad depression. I'm very dependent on exercise to keep me feeling good (physically and mentally) so it's important for me to keep doing it through the dark and cold of winter.

Could you run early mornings or at night off road with a head torch? If that doesn't appeal, perhaps you could try and find another activity to keep your fitness ticking over during winter. Swimming, yoga or a team sport?

Hope things get easier for you soon.
Dr.S at work - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to Tall Clare:

> As others have said, get your Vit D levels checked - I've been tested and found to be very low over the last couple of winters. The symptoms for me were feeling very gloomy, feeling dizzy, and strangely sore feet... I take 50 squigglegrams (symbol looks like the mju symbol) of Vit D3 every day and within a week find myself feeling much better.

Micro grams, and it is the mju symbol.
Tall Clare - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to Dr.S at work:

Can you tell I'm not a scientist? ;-)
marsbar - on 07 Jan 2017
In reply to Tall Clare:

Squigglegrams is funny .
L winter has come - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond, I really appreciate it. I've also suffered with depression in the past and don't get on with SSRIs at all, so would prefer to avoid that.

Not very keen on the alarm clock idea. I don't sleep well at the best of times and so take my sleep where I can find it, even if that means going into work a bit later some days.

I should probably investigate the lamps a bit more deeply, even if it is placebo, I'll take that!

I'm also going to try and get out in the middle of the day, even if it's just for 30 minutes.
captain paranoia - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to marsbar:

I giggled at squigglegrams... Giggling is good...
captain paranoia - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Life just is objectively shit in the winter, because it lacks every activity that I enjoy.

Find another activity, more suited to winter participation: mountain biking?
LakesWinter on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Try winter climbing? Dry tooling can happen any day it's too warm so you can train for the real thing and then you have the opportunity to smash it up to Scotland any weekend it looks good, do some great climbing, enjoy some stunning scenery and get a massive dose of exercise. Can't promise the sun, can promise some exhilaration.
marsbar - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

Fwiw I found SNRIs better that SSRIs. I'm sure someone more on here can explain the difference better than me.
Jon Stewart - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to marsbar:

> Fwiw I found SNRIs better that SSRIs. I'm sure someone more on here can explain the difference better than me.

SNRIS work on both serotonin and norepinephrine, whereas Selective Serotonin Reuptke Inhibitors act just on a asubset of serotonin receptor/transporter things. It's impossible from my very basic understanding to predict from the neurochemical function to what the difference for the user might be - in fact even a neuroscientist can only come up with an educated guess.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:

Sex, loads of sex. Try it. My wife says its awesome, which is strange because im not.......

marsbar - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Personally I found SSRI made me spacey, I didn't really care enough to feel depressed. The SNRI helped me to function normally. However I'm sure everyone experiences things differently.
Jon Stewart - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to LakesWinter and others who suggested new hobbies:

Cheers -I'd like to think that there is winter hobby out there to make the winter more bearable. There are reasons (unlikely to change) why I'm the suggested activities aren't for me. When I move up to Cumbria, that may well bring a different set of options with it.

Timmd on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to winter has come:
I don't know if I get SAD, but I find I can really really crave some sunlight around this time of year, and I find super strong dark drinking chocolate, like Devine or Sainsburys own brand, or Willie's Cacao, so that it's 'chewable' can help as a mood enhancer (thanks to the theobromine), and very dark chocolate works too, though it's not so good for the teeth (or my teeth it seems).

Bananas can help too and sweet potatoes...
Post edited at 22:19
Timmd on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Sheffield is meant to be as good for mountain biking as it is for climbing, if you have the time and cash spare (and the inclination) it possibly wouldn't be unfeasible.

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