Beat the winter writing blues

Okay it’s January. New Year. New writing resolutions. The weather is so bad you might as well be sat behind your desk trying to hit that work count. But after only a few days of diligence, your mind wanders, your enthusiasm wanes and your stomach wants sweet comforting.

You are not alone. Eight out of ten Brits suffer to some degree from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those of us stuck working indoors are particularly susceptible. Lack of daylight can seriously affect our circadian rhythm (our body clock). These rhythms regulate many important bodily functions such as: appetite, energy levels, sleep and mood. Melatonin is the main culprit. “Light stops the production of this sleep hormone, this is why we wake up naturally in the morning. But if melatonin levels in the body remain high due to lack of light, lethargy and symptoms of depression can occur.”

Let in the light
It would be lovely to escape to the beach on an extended winter sun holiday and write lying on a deck chair, but for those of us who can’t afford it a SAD light box is the answer. Normal room lighting emits around 500 lux. Light boxes emit an intensity of 10,000 lux. Treatment takes 30-60 minutes a day, repeated daily. See http://www.sada.org.uk. Also make the most of bright days and get out and about, particularly in the morning.

Stop stuffing yourself on carbs
I have sympathy. I swear chocolate is injected with happiness. When we’re feeling blue and lacking in energy we crave carbs because they are a great quick fix pick me up. But resist! Or the pressure canister on your operator chair with give out and you’ll sink even lower down in the dumps.
A lack of iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, D and B (the energy) vitamins, can all affect mood. St Johns Wort, Ginkgo Biloba and 5-HTP are all herbal supplements reputed to treat depression. Ask a specialist health food retailer or GP for advice.

Keep moving
Dr Andrew McCulloch from the Mental Health Foundation, says: “There’s convincing evidence that thirty minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week is effective against depression. Outdoor exercise will have a double benefit, because you’ll gain some daylight.” Activity is believed to change the level of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin in the brain. Sorry typing, swiveling on your chair or trotting to the snack cupboard doesn’t count as ‘vigorous.’

Keep socialising
Writer friends unite. Depression can result in irritability and not wanting to see people, but becoming cut off from people only exacerbates low mood. Writing is a solo profession for the most part. If you are a stay at home writer, make sure you have a social outing planned weekly. Time away from your writing gives you perspective and recharges your creative batteries.

So if you’re down in the dumps and stuck in a writerly rut, don’t hibernate, get up, get out, take care of your self, and most of all keep writing.

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