According to SADAG, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect half a million people every winter. The symptoms include depression, anxiety, lethargy, social withdrawal, overeating, oversleeping, weight gain and difficulty concentrating, among others. Although this disorder is only diagnosed in 2 - 3% of the population, many of us experience one or more of its symptoms during the winter season.

Of course, it is important to practice self-care and mental health awareness all year round. But, keeping track of your moods and behaviour in winter can help combat symptoms of SAD and other mental health illnesses. After nearly two months in lockdown, your mental health may be taking a toll. As we enter a new and unpredictable phase of lockdown, you may face increased anxiety. We are constantly having to adapt to the world around us in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is not always easy.

Upping your self-care in lockdown can not only help prepare you to enter the real world again, but it's a good time to make caring for yourself a regular habit. Here are a few self-care routines to try out this winter whether you are in lockdown or taking on the world, hand sanitiser at the ready:

mental health

Mind & Soul

Journalling

Writing in your journal need not always be feelings orientated. If your personality type is logic centred, consider making to-do lists or setting goals for yourself in your journal. Laying out your responsibilities in a practical way to curb anxiety, as your mind is able to process the information in a more logical way. Set realistic goals for yourself - you should know your limits and capabilities better than anyone else. Remember to keep focused on your progress rather than the grand outcome of your goals - taking it one day at a time is far more productive than trying to conquer it all at once.

Bullet journals are a great tool for keeping track of your eating habits, moods and to-do lists. Draw up your own mood tracker to find out what may be triggering your negative thought patterns or self-destructive behaviours. Becoming more self-aware allows you to feel in control of your emotions, boosting your confidence and helping you tackle your anxieties. You can find bullet journals at almost any stationery store these days. We found ours online at loot.co.za.

Get Creative

How often do you find yourself wishing you had more time to do the things you love? Now you have the perfect opportunity to get started! So many of us prioritise work or family commitments over ourselves and our well-being, even in lockdown. Make time to do something creative just for yourself. It could be anything, from cooking your favourite meal, to attending an online art class or knitting yourself a colourful winter scarf. If you are more handy than artsy, start a new DIY project. But, be sure to follow through with it - there is nothing more demoralising to the spirit than an unfinished project.

Find A Greater Purpose

Connecting yourself with a higher power, whatever that may mean to you, is a good way to gain perspective and empathy for others. Even if you aren't spiritually inclined, practicing a few minutes of meditation and mindful thinking a day can do wonders for your mental health. Become present in the moment and rather than focusing solely on yourself, look outwards to find how you can help those in need during lockdown. If you are fit and healthy, consider volunteering to bring food parcels and medication to the needy. There are lots of community drives and initiatives you can join to help make that small difference.

mental health

Body

Get Moving & Spend Time Outdoors

A good dose of sunshine is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to alleviate symptoms of SAD! Get yourself outside this winter, whether it's for an early morning run around the block or an at-home yoga session in the garden. While you may have to face the morning chill, the fresh air and boost of natural endorphins released while exercising makes it all worth it. If you are working from home, make sure to schedule in time for outdoor activities. Run around with your dog, lay out in the sun or get busy gardening. It's about taking a break from the confines of your home (and your mind) and engaging your body instead.

Food, Food, Food

One of the symptoms of SAD is an increased appetite for starchy foods and sugar. Studies show that these food groups may increase allergy sensitivity, inflammation and even anxiety. Curb your cravings by enjoying more legumes and pulses, slow releasing proteins and vegetables in winter. A great way to pack in the nutrients is by conjuring up a hearty pot of soup. But, steer clear of soups laden with cream. Rather use grated carrot or tomato puree to thicken up your brew. Adding natural anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ginger or turmeric may also aid the fight against seasonal depression.

Naturally, the perfect accompaniment to any soup is bread. Don't reach for the ciabatta or french loaf - sourdough and rye bread are healthier alternatives, as they are slow releasing and have a high glycemic index. However, we know that baking your own sourdough loaf can be tedious and confusing. Woolworths stocks 100% rye bread which is also wheat free. Alternatively, order online from Mrs Bread Care - a local stallholder at the Bryanston Organic & Natural Market. This family run bakery specialise in all kinds of delicious, nourishing breads.

Sweet Dreams 

Lastly, but definitely not least on the list of self-care tips is sleep. We all know how important it is to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But, how many of us actually achieve this? Make your bedroom a paradise by ensuring there is enough ventilation in the room. Also try to eliminate any bright light nearby. If you struggle with seasonal allergies, your breathing may be affected during sleep, causing you to be restless. Get yourself a humidifier or air purifier. Dis-Chem has a great range of inexpensive Elektra water steam humidifiers available for delivery.

Also, check out @home's winter sleep sanctuary guide. The guide includes tips on picking your perfect bed linen, mattress and pillow for the ultimate good rest. @home is open for online shopping and deliveries on all winter essentials during lockdown.

mental health - sleep

Stay safe and keep well!

The old adage rings ever true: "Find three hobbies you love — one to make you money, one to keep you in shape and one to express your creativity." To achieve a sense of fulfillment, we must find activities to participate in outside of our careers and home lives. But, finding the time and energy for three separate hobbies can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, as the new year kicks into full swing, we should all be mindful of allowing ourselves a little downtime. Hey, maybe you will get lucky and find a creative hobby that you love doing that also fills your pockets with some extra cash!

Creative Hobbies

These kinds of hobbies are usually the easiest to start and the quickest to be forgotten. Expressing your creative side, in whatever form it manifests, is vital. 2020 has a lot to offer creative enthusiasts. So, do not fret if you aren't in touch with your emotions — there are always surprising pathways to self-awareness.

Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling was the creative hobby for 2019. Pinterest boards were littered with journal prompts and how-to guides. This expressive hobby is so much fun, we declare it officially past trendy fad stage. Bullet journaling is the new way to organise your life, in the most creative way possible. While it does take dedication, the rewards are ample. Our favourite way to bullet journal is with inky doodles and colour charts. If paint is your medium of choice, we recommend using watercolours to decorate the pages of your organiser. For those of you unfamiliar with the bullet journal, visit your nearest Exclusive Books store or their online shop to find a range of helpful guides.

Open Dance Classes

Conquer your New Year's resolutions by investing time in a 'get fit' creative hobby, such as dance. Whether it's an open ballet class or toe stomping tap, dance is an excellent way to shed those extra Christmas kilos while expressing your creative side. But, you need not spend a fortune on dance lessons or a hefty gym membership. Many of Joburg's theatre spaces offer free open classes to anyone with an interest in dance. The physical and mental health benefits of dance certainly outweigh the effort you need to put into getting started, so what are you waiting for?

Green Fingers Gardening

We know that gardening may not be everyone's first choice of creative past time. But believe us, it's worth giving a shot. The latest gardening hobby trend is growing your own avocado tree (don't blame the millennial fetish — avos are ridiculously expensive.) With the water crisis becoming our new reality, more gardeners are also turning to uprooting their gardens in favour of succulent plants. Consider nurturing a potted cactus to begin your venture into full scale gardening. Apartment dwellers, fear not. Urban gardening is a major trend that is likely to expand in 2020, as eco-friendly city living is the new norm.

cactus

Money Making Hobbies

Photography

Photography doubles as a creative and money-making hobby. Whether you snap great visuals on your smartphone, or are invested in buying yourself the best DSLR model, this is a wonderful way to pass your time. Being a good photographer means learning to balance your creativity with the analytic principles of composition. This may take years of practice to perfect, so get snapping. Once you have mastered the skill, advertise your talents on social media networks. What started out as a hobby may turn into a full-time job. Check out our list of Instagram worthy venues in Joburg to get started on your visual portfolio.

Pull On Those Apron Strings

If you are lucky enough to be blessed with a talent in the kitchen, why not put it to good use this year? Take your cooking aspirations to the next level by turning your hobby into a part-time business. Whether its baking gooey chocolate brownies to sell at a local market, pickling your own cucumbers or making a weird and wonderful assortment of jams; cooking and baking are both rewarding and can be profitable in the long run.

Never used a spatula before? Or, set flame to your kitchen making toast? Make 2020 the year you learn to cook! You can either risk doing DIY lessons at home or attend a beginner's class at the PnP Good Food Studio on Nicol. Either way, we are sure you will be cooking up a storm by the time the end of the year rolls around.

Design Your Own T-Shirt Range

T-shirts never go out of style. Designing and printing your own brand of quirky tees has also never been easier. To start, grab an old t-shirt from your closet. Play around with adding appliques, cutting and dying the fabric. Alternatively, sketch your ideas or invest in computerised design software to help you map out your creative musings. Visit the Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg to truly understand the versatility and range of fabrics out there. Make sure to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. (Pro tip: The staff at Moosa's Fabrics on the second floor of the Plaza are always willing to advise newbie clothing makers.)

t-shirt

Keeping Fit

Park Run

Park Run take place all around the city. These events are safe, well-organised and competitively friendly. People of all fitness levels and ages are welcome to participate. If gym really isn't your cup of tea (or coffee), and you are in dire need of a little Joburg sunshine, sign up at your nearest Park Run. You can rope in a bunch of your friends to join you, or if you are more of a lone wolf, create a playlist to keep you motivated along the way. Making playlists may even become a hobby of its own - music lovers will attest that there should be one for every occasion.

Run/Walk For Life

Embrace the Joburg outdoors and join Run/Walk For Life. This scientific-based exercise programme is tailored to your personal fitness level, helping you achieve your goals at a steady pace. Plus, you will be allocated into a group of people with the same fitness level, so no one is left behind. Classes take place three times a week, for 30 minutes each, within safe and secure perimeters around the city. Run/Walk For Life members also regularly participate in marathons and group runs. So, not only will you be investing in a new hobby, but making friends and pushing your limits along the way.

Scuba Diving Lessons

Even though we have no seas or beaches in Joburg, many of us love the water. Instead of spending hours lounging in the pool, push yourself to learn a new skill. The Urban Dive Centre in Northcliff offers scuba diving lessons. They will start you out in the heated pool at their premises, before moving you on to open water training. After acquiring your diver certification, sign up for one of their many diving trips on offer. They even have an underwater photography course! You'll be the ultimate triple threat hobbyist with your creative underwater photography portfolio.

Do you have any great hobbies? Tell us about them!

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