It may be the season for holiday cheer – and it’s also the season when the winter blues may set in. With the colder weather upon us and less daylight, it’s easy to fall into a funk. Is it just a temporary funk, the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder?
Approximately two to three per cent of Canadians suffer with seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), and many more struggle with the milder form often referred to as ‘the winter blues’ (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2021). The signs and severity can vary for each individual, so take notice if you begin to feel a bit down, or just not like yourself.
Signs you may be struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder or the Winter Blues:
- Feeling sluggish, lethargic or having low energy during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lacking motivation to do activities you normally enjoy
- Craving ‘comfort food’ and foods high in carbohydrates
- Loss of appetite and enjoyment of food
- Weight gain
- Withdrawing from friends and family
If you’re feeling down, don’t ignore it. There are some easy, natural ways to help stave off the blues.
Tips To Elevate Your Mood
1. Soak up the sunshine
Get outside during the day to soak up as much sunshine and natural light as you can. Take a walk around the block during your breaks and at lunch. Even a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine can help boost your mood.
2. Get natural light
Try to sit near a window when you’re indoors during the day. Move your desk closer to the window, have your reading nook at home bathed in natural light. Ensuring the space around you feels light and airy can help give you a mental boost.
3. Light therapy
Can’t get outside during the day? Get a S.A.D. light. Available for purchase in many pharmacies, these lights are designed to simulate sunshine, triggering the brain to release serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone. It’s recommended to use it daily for at least 20 – 30 minutes. Set it up beside you while you enjoy your breakfast in the morning, while you’re reading the paper, while you’re meditating, or have it beside your desk.
Regular exercise can help, especially if it’s outdoors and in daylight. Slip away from your desk for a short walk or run on your lunch break.
5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Fueling your body with healthy, nutritious food helps keep your body and mind operating optimally. Your gut health can impact your mood, anxiety and concentration levels.
6. Reduce stress
Stress negatively impacts your overall health and wellness and may cause you to feel overwhelmed, which only exacerbates depression or feeling blue. Be kind to yourself and make a conscious effort to avoid stressful situations.
When you’re experiencing seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, it’s a natural inclination to withdraw and isolate. Accept the invitation to connect with a friend, go for a walk with a family member, and reach out to others. Be honest with those close to you about how you’re feeling.
8. Get a restful sleep
Those suffering from S.A.D. often struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene and developing healthy habits leading up to bedtime, such as limiting screen time before going to bed, will help you fall asleep and stay asleep leading to feeling more rested in the morning.
9. Seek medical advice
Chat with your family physician or healthcare provider for advice. They may recommend vitamins, supplements or a prescription that can help. In some cases, they may order a test to measure your Vitamin D levels. Low levels of Vitamin D may impact seasonal affective disorder.
Throughout the busy holiday season, prioritize these tips to help you stay in a positive headspace. If you need some help, and would like to speak with someone, book an appointment with Shelley Hanna, INLIV’s Registered Psychologist today.