Winter Blues & Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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With winter having squarely arrived in our part of the world, today we are going to discuss the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and a few tips to hopefully help with manage feeling the blues during this time of year.

Many of us experience a dip in mood during the winter, but there are also a subset of folks whose mood get impacted to the point where it can be considered to be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — which is a form of depression.

Winter Blues could be described as feeling more gloomy or sluggish, but if your level of low mood during the winter months is impacting all areas of your life, it may be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include two weeks or more of consistently depressed mood. Depressed mood symptoms can include sleep issues, excessively low energy and lack of motivation.

If you suspect that your level of feeling down is accompanied with a heightened feeling of helplessness, please reach out to a medical or mental health professional for personalized support.

Winter Blues

For the majority of us, once there’s less daylight there’s a mood shift to a lower gear, so to speak.

Intuitively and the general assumption is that the lack of light leads to lower moods.

But scientifically, the full cause of the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder is not completely understood.

Many experts believe it is connected with changes in melatonin production, which is the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

Feeling sluggish, opting to not make plans to get out and socialize, and especially when it’s cold as it’s been, we often figure out ways to avoid going outside.

At this time of year, it’s tough to sustain a good foundation for mental health, but this is when it’s especially important to keep up with a good mental wellness routine.

Tips to Manage the Winter Blues

Tip #1 – Get Exposed to Light. Get exposure to natural sunlight. Either by getting outside or by sitting by a sunny window. Even when it’s cold, we’ve had quite a few sunny days and getting that light exposure can be really helpful.

If getting outside on a regular basis is a challenge, getting one of those full spectrum light boxes or lamps for at least 30 minutes every morning can be helpful.

Some people also find a bedside dawn simulator to be beneficial. It’s an alarm clock and lamp combination which simulates sunrise which helps to wake you up gradually and in a more natural manner.

Tip #2 – Get Moving. When it’s cold and all you want to do is stay in bed, it’s hard to get motivated to get active. But exercise or even getting a brisk walk in can stave off a sense of sluggishness.

Try to make it as easy as possible to work in regular exercise by making it seamless with other daily responsibilities you may have. For instance, having it as something you do on your way or coming back from work. Or walking to get errands done.

Also, getting some exercise outdoors during the day can get you some exposure to natural light, as well as get some physical activity in!

Tip #3 – Get Connected. It’s tempting to stay at home and hibernate. But making sure to connect with friends and family is a good way to manage the winter blues.

And if you’re spending some good quality time dining with the good folks in your life, also try and make good nutritional choices and maybe refrain from alcohol, which is a depressant.

Tip #4 – Talking Can Help. I often tell my clients that talk therapy can be a resource.

And just like having a family doctor or massage therapist, it can be helpful to have a trusted counsellor or therapist whom you can reach out and consult with when needed.

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