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A Guide to Beating Seasonal Blues

By Christina Radziejewski, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Are you feeling blue?

When shorter days and poor weather prevail, there will be some amongst us who will experience a significant mood change that is characterized by sadness and anxiety. This is a condition commonly called the “Winter Blues”, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that manifests at the same time every year – the most common form occurring around the end of fall or the start of winter, and ending in spring or summer.

Symptoms of SAD include a depressed and irritable mood, excessive eating, weight gain and sleeping. These may be accompanied by a loss of interest in activities that one used to enjoy, social withdrawal, fatigue or lethargy, an inability to focus, a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness, and in severe cases, 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, available in the form of light boxes, has been shown to be beneficial to some individuals suffering from SAD. Research has found that phototherapy is most effective when used in combination with anti-depressants or psychotherapy.

A psychotherapist or counsellor who uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help to identify negative or irrational thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts to improve overall mental health.

In more severe cases, a course of anti-depressants may be necessary. Talk to your family doctor and therapist if your SAD symptoms are causing dysfunctional behaviours in your life.

Managing the blues

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

Get outside. 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, getting sufficient sleep and generally maintaining a healthy diet of lean meat, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, could also help to lesson the effects of SAD.

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

Maintain a routine. Go about life as usual. Keep yourself busy, involve yourself in work, community, church, or volunteer your skills. Focus on helping others, and on the act of giving during the Holiday season.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, call us at 604-484-2737 or email us at