Feeling SAD this time of year?
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
Living in a "winter" country, most Canadians are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, also sometimes called Seasonal Depression. It’s a period of depressive symptoms that tends to cycle with the seasons and reaches its peak in the coldest, darkest months of the year.
A diagnosis of SAD uses the same diagnostic criteria as regular depression, such as:
Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)
Having problems with sleep
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having low energy
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Having difficulty concentrating
Having thoughts of death or suicide
In addition to talking with your doctor about whether a prescription antidepressant might be a good option for you, there are some non-medicinal things that you can do to help decrease the affect of SAD on your day-to-day functioning.
1) Regular moderate exercise, like walking (indoor tracks at rec centres are great for this in the winter!)
2) Focus on eating well. Lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and proteins will give your body the fuel it needs to have energy for doing things during the day. Try to find things that feel like a treat but are actually healthy to kick-start your appetite when you don’t feel like eating. (Greek yogurt with fruit, granola, and honey, anyone? Yum!)
3) Start using a bedtime routine to help get a better night’s sleep. Limit screens in the evenings and dim the lights to prepare your brain for sleep.
4) Use bright light therapy in the mornings. As a complement to dimmed lights in the evening, bright light in the morning helps to regular your circadian rhythm (aka your sleep-wake cycle) and helps reset the delayed sleep phase that can occur with SAD or other types of depression. Find yourself staying up until 2 am then sleeping in until 10? That’s a delayed sleep phase.
If you’re local to Moose Jaw and think you might benefit from bright light therapy, reach out to me! I have a 10,000 Lux clinical-grade light therapy lamp in my office for client use. You’re welcome to book a 30 minute solo session of relaxation in my cozy space (get some work done, read a book, or just unplug from the world!) or ask to have the light on during a regular counselling session.