Fa la la la la, la la la laaaa.

And so it goes, but while everyone seems to be rushing about getting prepared for the festive season, don’t forget to put your wellbeing and good mental health at the top of your shopping list.

Winter blues is a real thing, so don’t let anyone tell you it’s a myth.

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Shorter daylight hours, forced social occasions and pressures on the bank balance all spring to mind. Easy to see how it could all get on top of you.

There is actually a medical name for winter depression. Brace yourselves: seasonal affective disorder or SAD, finally, a logical acronym!

Essentially, sunlight works to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which makes us wake up. In winter, there is less sunlight so you might produce more melatonin. You might feel a bit lethargic or begin to experience other symptoms of depression.

So if you’re feeling sluggish and wondering why, you’re not alone. The good news is there are small things we can all do to try and beat the winter blues.

As it’s Christmas, I’ve made a list:

  • Get as much natural daylight as possible. If you’re at work, school or college, sit by the window to catch some extra rays. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried.
  • Try not to let mince pies and yule logs become 1 or more of your 5 a day. I know it’ll feel good at the time, but you probably won’t feel your best afterwards. Eat something green once in a while.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. If you’re prematurely 85 in spirit like myself, the prospect of Christmas party season might not fill you with joy. Where you can, try to keep a pattern of going to bed and getting up at the roughly the same time every day.
  • And de-stress with exercise or meditation! Outdoor exercise is twice as good as you’ll get some daylight at the same time. The charity Mind says an hour-long walk in the middle of the day is an effective way to beat the winter blues.

If it’s more than a case of winter blues that you’re struggling with, don’t soldier on alone. Problems shared are problems halved, and all that…

Check out the various mental health services on offer locally. Some will require a GP referral, but not all…

We now have two fantastic safe spaces in the county called Retreats in Bournemouth and Dorchester, open 7 days a week. You’ll find mental health professionals and peer support workers who have lived experience of mental ill-health. No need for an appointment, just show up and make the most of the support that’s available.

If you don’t want to speak to someone face-to-face, there is also www.kooth.com where you can access online support from counsellors.