The bleak and dreary winter weather affects everyone’s mood. The winter cold and shorter days, however, are much harder on those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It usually appears in late fall and lasts through the winter months. Less commonly, some people also experience it in summer.
What causes SAD and what are its symptoms?
The exact cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder is not known. It is believed that lack of sunlight causes SAD in winter. Reduced daylight hours disturb the body’s biological clock and serotonin levels.
Common symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep patterns, social withdrawal, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.
How can I help my employees manage seasonal affective disorder?
Here are some suggestions on how you can help your employees affected by SAD cope better:
Create awareness about seasonal depression
It is important that you create an environment where your employees feel comfortable reaching out to you if they are struggling with a mental health challenge. If you’re managing a remote workforce, you could send out informational emails and flyers to start a conversation. If your staff is working out of a physical office, you can do the same and also put up informational posters to raise awareness.
You could also invite a mental health professional to give a talk on SAD to your staff. If you’re managing a hybrid workforce (a mix of office-based and remote workers), you may want to also stream the talk online.
Training your managers and team leads on how to recognize symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and provide support is another effective way.
Educate employees on coping strategies
Making time for self-care is important for everyone. Even more so for those employees who experience a major depressive disorder this time of the year.
It is crucial that they seek professional help. SAD should not be taken lightly. Untreated, it can lead to thoughts of self-harm. Treatment for SAD includes light therapy, psychotherapy and – when needed – medication. Alongside treatment, the following tips may help:
- Stick to a routine. As far as possible, try and go to bed and wake up at a fixed time.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Avoid too much takeout or junk food.
- Create and follow a regular exercise routine. Research shows regular exercise improves depression and anxiety.
- Strive for a work-life balance. Take short breaks to stretch or take a walk.
- Stay connected (virtually) with family, friends, and co-workers.
- Sign up for an online activity or volunteering role that can be done remotely.
Offer flexible working hours
If the nature of your business allows it, you could offer flexible working hours to your employees affected by SAD. This would help them spend more time outside in the sun and complete their errands or follow exercise routines in daylight.
If your employees work remotely, it is important that you regularly check in with your staff. Organize weekly or monthly virtual socials to help your remote workers stay connected. This measure would benefit all your employees, especially those who live alone. If you have an office-based or hybrid team, a work social is still a good way to boost morale and help your staff bond.
Connect employees to available mental health resources
Whether your staff is struggling with seasonal depression or recovering from the prolonged stress caused by the pandemic, it is important that you inform them about existing mental health resources. If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program, remind your staff about its benefits and how they can access it.
Do you need help creating a workplace mental health policy?
Whether it is policy on mental health in the workplace or flexible working, we’ve got you covered. Peninsula’s experts can help you create company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety or employment advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.