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A Guide to Beating Winter Blues

By Christina Radziejewski, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Are you feeling blue?

When shorter days and poor weather prevail, some of us will experience a significant mood change. Sadness and anxiety are key characteristics. This is a condition commonly called “Winter Blues”, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that manifests at the same time every year. The most common form occurs around the end of Fall and ending in spring or summer.

Symptoms of SAD include a depressed and irritable mood, excessive eating, and sleeping. Some people may experience social withdrawal, or a loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy. Additionally, some may experience fatigue, and an inability to focus. For others, a sense of hopelessness and of worthlessness. In severe cases, folks may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Treatment for SAD includes phototherapy, anti-depressant medications, and psychotherapy.

Phototherapy or light therapy has been found to be beneficial to some individuals. Researchers discovered that phototherapy is most effective when used with anti-depressants or psychotherapy.

Many counsellors use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to identify negative or irrational thoughts. The goal of this therapy is replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

In more severe cases, a course of anti-depressants may be necessary. Do consult with your family doctor to find out if anti-depressants are suitable for you.

Managing Winter Blues

There are a few things you can do to manage symptoms:

Spend time outdoors. Research has suggested that SAD is triggered by the decreased availability of natural sunlight. Spending time outdoors during the day could help alleviate the severity of symptoms. Consider taking a walk during your lunch hour. If you work from home, position your desk close to the window to increase sunlight exposure.

Exercise, sleep well and eat healthily. Increasing physical exercise, and getting sufficient sleep could also help to lessen the effects of SAD. Unquestionably, increasing a healthy diet of lean meat, fruits, and vegetables, is beneficial.

Connect. Maintaining or renewing connections with family, friends, neighbours and co-workers are encouraged. Improve your support network and build up a sense of belonging and responsibility.

Finally, try to maintain a routine. Go about life as usual. Keep yourself busy, involve yourself in work, community, church, or volunteer. Certainly, focus on helping others, and on the act of giving during the Holiday season.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, we can help. Call us at 604-484-2737 or email us at info@innovatherapy.com.