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Suggestions for combating the winter blues

Do you experience a shift in your mood during the winter? This week in Mom of the House, Brianna gives some possible solutions to that problem
A recent trip to SAIL where we pretended to camp. Brianna Bell for GuelphToday

January is over and we’re settled into February, feeling like winter will never end and craving the warmth of the sun on our skin. Talking to friends and family I’ve noticed a common feeling around me, most of us are experiencing a little less motivation, more fatigue, and are even a bit lonely during these cold winter months.

I know I’ve struggled over the last few weeks, hibranting from the cold has left me feeling alienated from the world. I’ve missed long walks, playing at the park, and the ease of leaving the house in warmer weather. I’ve noticed that I am often tired, which leads me to less interest in physical activity, less motivation, and even more irritability. These are common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the same months of the year. Many people with SAD find that depression hits in the same cycle, and for me it’s always been mid-January.

According to Mood Disorders of Canada, around two to five per cent of Canadians will experience SAD at some point in their lives, another 15 per cent experience a milder form of SAD. However, feeling the “winter blues” is common to many people, and can be described as experiencing a shift in your mood over the winter months.

There’s some proven ways to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, or even the winter blues.

  • Light therapy has been proven to be effective for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but in order for it to be effective you have to be consistent and committed to sitting in front of your light therapy box daily. The method requires that you purchase a light therapy box, and sit in front of it for around 30 minutes each day, typically after you’ve woken up is best.
  • Researchers have already linked SAD to low levels of Vitamin D, which is why it’s recommended that all infants, children, and adults take a Vitamin D supplement, particularly during low light months. Talk to your doctor about dosage recommendations.
  • Getting outside, even when it’s cold and you don’t feel like it is a great way to combat the winter blues. Not only is exercise and physical activity important to your mental well-being, but getting the fresh air and sunshine outside (even if it doesn’t feel sunny) is important for your mental health.

In addition to the above, some ways that I have been working on improving my mood include keeping a schedule and routine, allowing myself rest and down-time, and enjoying nurturing activities like drinking tea and reading a book.

Knowing that I’m not alone is helpful when dealing with SAD. I continue to remind myself that before too long the hot sun will melt the snow and bring a new, more hopeful season with it, too.

What do you do to combat the winter blues?

There are resources and supports available if you’re feeling alone and need someone to talk to. Here 24/7 is available an an Addictions, Mental Health, and Crisis Support. Call 1 844 437 3247 to talk to someone, anytime of the day. If you think you have Seasonal Affective Disorder talk to your doctor to find the best treatment for you.