Many of us start to feel slower and a little less happy during the winter months however if you notice a persistent low mood amongst your staff, and a reduction in their energy levels, they may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Often called ‘winter depression’, SAD tends to manifest in the autumn months with sufferers frequently experiencing feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, sleeping for longer than normal and losing pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities at home and in the workplace.
What causes SAD?
Some have argued that the root of SAD stems from a shift in culture with 75 per cent of people working outside 200 years ago, to only 10 per cent working outside today and as a result, losing contact with regular daylight.1
The NHS says: “The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly.”2
This impact can affect the production of melatonin and serotonin, key hormones which make you sleepy and manage your mood respectively. This can cause low moods and add to difficulties mentioned above.
What do I do if I think employees have SAD?
If you start to notice symptoms of increased lethargy, constant low moods or irritability amongst your staff, the first port-of-call should be for them to visit their GP.
During the appointment, doctors will be able to assess their mental health and suggest treatment, if necessary.
Following the appointment, patients may receive advice similar to other mental health conditions, such as lifestyle options. They may also be encouraged to take in as much natural sunlight as possible and to exercise regularly. Additional options may be to try talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy or, in some cases, antidepressant medication.
Employers can help by providing staff with access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which provides workers with confidential support, assistance and counselling when required on a range of life events. Implementing an EAP also helps businesses to meet duty of care requirements.
Additional employee support can come in the form of a SAD light which can help staff if they are suffering from SAD. The idea behind the light is to create a simulation of sunlight at a convenient time for SAD sufferers, so that receptors in the eyes can trigger the required serotonin (the “happy hormone”) release within the brain.3
The lights come in a range of different shapes and sizes with table lamps and others mounted to the wall. There are even dawn-simulating alarm clocks which mimic the gradual rise of the sun and help the body wake itself up in a way it’s used to in the spring and summer months.
Staying positive in the winter months
Even if you’re not suffering from SAD but feel a bit fed up during the darker and colder days, here are a few hints and tips to help everyone stay positive this winter. These include keeping active by walking for an hour in the middle of every day, making the most of the daylight hours and keeping warm.4
Other suggestions and initiatives which can be transferred into the workplace include healthy eating days and lunchtime running or exercise sessions. Outside of the workplace taking up a new hobby to put your energy into and spending time with friends and family is a positive step. Everyone can benefit from these suggestions this winter and, before we know it, spring will return!
Sovereign Health Care can help you keep the health and wellbeing of your employees in tip-top condition this winter. To find out more about our range of health care cash plans, click here.
1 SAD.org http://www.sad.org.uk/
3 SAD.org.uk http://www.sad.org.uk/sad-light-work/