The virtual disappearance of the sun in the late fall brings a gradual depletion of Vitamin D to most Canadians. Combined with cold winters that usher us indoors for weeks and even months on end, these are two major factors that contribute to seasonal depression. British Columbia’s UBC Hospital Mood Disorder Clinic approximates that over half a million Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) annually, a form of depression that takes place during winter’s darker, colder, and shorter days.
Knowing that we live in an area where the sun plays more hide than seek during this time, what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming one of the 600,000 people who suffer from the winter blues?
What is seasonal affective disorder? (SAD)
SAD is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an illness that makes people feel sad and tired during the winter because there is less light during the day.” Obviously, it is most common in the northern hemisphere. It’s cold up here during the winter, and when we do see sun, we’re sure as hell not baring much skin for it.
Think of it as seasonal depression, the same way some people get seasonal asthma. It doesn’t last all year, and it has a definite cause.
What are some preventative ways to avoid it?
- Increase your Vitamin D dosage during the winter. You don’t need to take these supplements during the summer, but in the winter, most health care practitioners recommend them.
- When the sun does come out, try and be in it, and expose as much skin as you can to it.
- If you can, go somewhere sunny for a few days. If you can manage to fly south for a week or so mid-winter, then try and do that.
- Exercise. Exercising releases endorphins, which improve both immunity and pain perception. It also helps to stimulate norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps to improve mood. Harvard Health has actually said that that “exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants.”
- Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, full of whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats. The best way to prevent health issues, is to feed your body the good stuff.
What you can do to lessen your symptoms if you have it?
- Use light therapy. This is something that the Mayo Clinic recommends, and I can personally attest to witnessing its effectiveness. This is what the Mayo Clinic says about it:
“Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by exposure to artificial light. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter. During light therapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing SAD symptoms. Using a light therapy box may also help with other types of depression, sleep disorders and other conditions. Light therapy is also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy.”
- Again, exercise.
- Don’t drink too much! Alcohol will make this worse, because it perpetuates depression and anxiety.
- Reduce your holiday anxiety. Don’t expect too much from yourself, and don’t put yourself in situations that could be overly stressful.
- Realize that this is what you may experiencing, and acknowledge that you may need to seek some help from your family.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. But if you or someone you love does, I hope you’ll take proactive steps in guiding your way through our long, Canadian winter. (Ugh.)
Happy Meatless Monday, everyone!
- Feeling Blue? Try Light Therapy (bellacor.com)
- Fall Depression – Seasonal Affective Disorder (annveilleux.com)
- Are You Struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder? (psychcentral.com)
- Its called SAD >Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (kaz50.wordpress.com)