Fighting the Winter Blues

January—Tip of the Month

Now that the holiday season has passed, we’re left with our New Year’s resolutions, maybe a pound or two extra around the middle, and (in Canada) at least a couple of months of cold, bleak weather stretching before us. This can make even the cheeriest person feel a little blue. However, people who are affected by the lack of sunlight during the winter months might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Often the symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, this condition can also cause depression in the spring or early summer.

If you feel particularly down at this time of year, don’t brush it off as a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year. There are treatments for SAD that include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medications.

Even people who don’t suffer from seasonal depression still find full-spectrum lamps helpful in the winter months. Light spectrum therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood. Interesting and helpful gadgets, like the sunrise alarm clocks that help people wake to a simulated sunrise-type light, also exist. Going outdoors for exercise in the middle of the day also helps ward off the winter blues. Try and get outside—even on the coldest days. Just ten minutes of winter sunlight on your face can help remind you that warmer weather and more daylight hours are coming back. In fact, from December 22nd onward, the days started getting longer again! (However, keep in mind that winter sunlight in Canada is not strong enough to allow vitamin D production in our skin. This means that we need to focus on foods that are rich in vitamin D to meet our needs during the winter months.)

Keeping your body and mind in good health during the winter months is also important. This includes eating well, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular amounts of sleep. Often your mood can get low when you are hungry, dehydrated, or tired. So make sure you eat a healthy diet that includes a wide spectrum of colour (e.g., green kale, orange yams, yellow peppers, and red apples). The vitamins and fibre in healthy foods will help keep your mind alert and will allow your body to cope better. And don’t forget that a dehydrated body can leave you foggy and feeling low. So make sure you keep up with the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day. Sleeping in the winter months can also be problematic. All that artificial light can affect your sleep patterns, which can leave you feeling fatigued and a little down. To get a better sleep, try reducing your screen time by taking a break from computers, TVs, and smart phones in the evenings.

The good news is that spring will be here before you know it! If you are feeling low or depressed, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor or nurse practitioner. Keep yourself healthy by eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting outside, and treating yourself to a good night’s sleep!

Ingle’s Tip of the Month was provided by P. Lloyd, Clinical Services Director, Novus Health (part of the Ingle Group of Companies)


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