Canadian winters are a great excuse to curl up indoors, enjoy a cup of tea, and catch up on Netflix or read a good book. But for some, it is also a time when many people start to struggle with their mood. SAD is a type of depression that occurs, most commonly, in the fall or winter months with full remission of symptoms in the spring or summer.
Although the specific cause of SAD is unknown, risk factors such as a family history of SAD, living far from the equator (decreased sunlight during winter months), your body’s internal clock, and changes in specific chemicals in you body are thought to play a role.
Symptoms can include:
– feelings of hopelessness
– social withdrawal
– low energy
– loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
– difficulties with sleep
– changes in appetite and/or weight
– difficulties concentrating
There are several things you can do to manage and prevent SAD such as:
– Light Therapy
This is an easy and noninvasive natural way to help treat SAD. A special light box that is 10,000 lux can be used to help manage symptoms. Spending 25-30 minutes each morning in front of the light source can effectively boost mood. Another option to consider is a “wake-up lamp” which simulates dawn by gradually becoming brighter until your scheduled wake up time as a way to help balance your body’s internal clock.
Encouraging daily movement can greatly benefit SAD sufferers as it helps to combat depressive symptoms and improve mood. Consider aerobic exercise like running or high intensity interval training. If you find you are having difficulties with motivation, join a recreational sport league, dance around your home, try a yoga class, chase your kids around the house – whatever gets you to move!
– Mind-Body Connection
Self care and fostering healthy stress management techniques can help to offset winter blues. Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga or tai chi, meditation, or guided imagery. Make effort to connect with people you enjoy being with. Do things you enjoy doing.
– Vitamin D
Research has shown the positive influence Vitamin D has on depressive symptoms. Vitamin D is produced by our body through direct sunlight contacting our skin. The winter season means decreased sunlight and often less time spent outdoors leaving us susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. Supplementing with a high quality Vitamin D3 can alleviate SAD symptoms. It is important to have a blood test to have your Vitamin D levels measured to determine what dosage you should take. A Naturopathic Doctor can order this blood test for you.
Saadia Mahmood ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine