Surviving S.A.D. as a freelancer

Once you get over the bit about it being really cold, winter actually has a lot going for it. The supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of £4 tubs of chocolate and you can eat as much as you want, cultivating a dad bod that needn’t go anywhere near a beach for at least three or four months. Coats make getting dressed a doddle; are you wearing a suit underneath or last night’s pyjamas? It’s a mystery to which nobody need know the answer. There’s Bonfire Night and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve parties and a month-long spell in January where it is perfectly acceptable – if not expected – to shun all social occasions and spend your nights Netflixing to your hearts content. Winter is bloody brilliant…so why are you so sad? Or should we say S.A.D.

S.A.D is best described as that sudden slump in mood and motivation that hits the minute the clocks go back. When it’s as challenging for you to lift the lid on your laptop as it is for Donald Trump’s makeup artist to match his foundation to his neck. It’s like being that post-all-nighter kind of tired, except you’ve had a great night’s sleep and haven’t hit the tequila in weeks. Your work is garbage and you might as well just give up now and go back to bed. S.A.D, or seasonal affective disorder, is well and truly kicking your butt.

While less than 10% of the population suffer from S.A.D, it is said to affect creatives more than anyone. What can we say, when you’re riddled with the creatives’ favourite imposter syndrome and self-doubt from the get-go, it only makes sense that the winter version has a name, right? Factor in the amount of time spent alone when you’re self-employed and you’re on a slippery slope to S.A.Dness. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are ways to manage S.A.D that don’t involve jacking it all in and jetting off to become a digital nomad at a Bali beach bar (although that does sound pretty good, doesn’t it).


Seasonal affective disorder has direct links to not seeing enough sunlight, something home-based freelancers can be guilty of even at the height of summer. We know it’s warm inside and the kettle is right there but get a reusable cup full of coffee and get outdoors for 20 minutes between tasks or at lunch. In the words of your old Nan ‘it’ll do you the world of good’.


When you can’t see the light, see the lightbox. A lifesaver for S.A.D sufferers, the device emits lumens that simulate sunlight and trigger serotonin in the brain. It’s the next best thing to getting out in the daylight and while it won’t get your step count up or your heart pumping like a walk will, research shows that it will boost those feel-good hormones at the very least.


Speaking of feel-good hormones, remember that feeling you get when you leave the gym all sweaty and virtuous and ready to seize the day? That’s exactly the feeling you need to kick S.A.D into touch. Do some yoga in front of the TV, pump some iron in the gym or kill two birds with one stone and get outside for a run.


Sometimes you have to accept a bad day for what it is, close the laptop and snooze it off. A great support network will have your back when you need a natter or have a deadline on the horizon that you could really use a hand with. Give them a shout; problem shared, problem halved and all that.

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