Winter Welfare

Some words of advice from our Welfare Officer Sean Williams on managing Seasonal Affective Disorder aka "The Winter Blues".

Sun rises over Hatton Locks on the Grand Union canal Sunrise over Hatton Locks on the Grand Union Canal

Winter is here, the festive season is over and everything is feeling a little grey.

During these short and cold days I thought I would write my little blog on the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as it’s also known.

Most of us are affected by the change in seasons and weather.  When the sun is shining (it does happen occasionally) we can feel happier and full of beans, but when winter comes we can find ourselves feeling less cheerful and lacking energy.

For lots of people this is perfectly normal but for some – around two million people in the UK – the change in seasons will have a much greater impact on their day-to-day life. It can affect mood and energy levels and even make people want to hibernate and withdraw from society.

Is SAD affecting you or someone you know?

Some common signs of SAD would be an onset of the following during the winter months:

  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Lethargy
  • Overeating
  • Irritability
  • Poor cognitive ability
  • Feeling down and unsociable

At this time of year these symptoms can be trivialised with comments about being a Christmas Scrooge, but they could be signs that SAD is in play.

So what can you do?

First and foremost, if you haven’t already done so then make an appointment and tell your GP about how you’re feeling.

In the meantime, there are a number of simple things you can try that may help improve your symptoms, including:

  • Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible – even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial, and canal walks can be great for wellbeing
  • Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible, difficult I know but open those curtains
  • Sit near windows when you're indoors
  • Take plenty of regular exercise, particularly outdoors and in daylight
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet – tricky with all those treats flying about, but take some ‘clean’ days and don’t overindulge on the alcohol
  • Keep in touch with friends and family if possible, hibernating in winter is not for humans
  • Try to avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress
  • If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, call Samaritans free on 116 123

It can also be helpful to talk to your family and friends about SAD and how this affects you so they can understand how your mood changes during the winter.  You can find out more about SAD at

Finally, I would just like to finish my blog by saying that, Christmas can be an emotional, expensive and difficult time of year and a kind word to someone can go a long way so let’s all look out for each other.

Whilst I have your attention here are some links for people who may be in financial hardship, emotional distress or looking for support services. 

Some useful contacts:

0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm)

116 123

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP):
01455 883 300

Waterway Chaplaincy:
Senior Chaplain Revd Mark Chester 07717 813 682

NHS Choices

Benefit Calculators and

As always, don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s what we are here for.  If you are a boater and feel like you may need help, please get in touch with us – you can find your local contact’s details on this map. If you prefer you can contact customer services on 0303 040 4040.

Wishing you the best for the season,



Last date edited: 3 January 2018

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Our boating team bring you news of their work across our network, as well as the stories of boaters they meet

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