Is it getting harder to fight the urge to build a blanket nest on the couch and wait for spring? Denying something as wonderful sounding as a blanket nest is hard.
Winter is a time of year many of us don’t feel at our best or most energetic. We may think it’s only the “winter blues,” but Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can affect more than 15% of Canadians.
The short days and heavy cloud cover in some parts of the country, limit our sunlight exposure which can disrupt our circadian rhythm. An upset body clock can throw the whole body out of whack, which may account for that fuzzy feeling when you get out of bed. Of course, binge-watching The Outsider may also account for that fuzzy feeling, but that’s a whole other article.
Alarmingly, women are at a higher risk for SAD. Scientists have yet to confirm why that is, but many think there’s a hormone connection.
Symptoms include irritability, sluggishness, loss of interest, weight gain, withdrawal and feelings of depression. Basically, it can make you feel like a big sack of blah.
The good news? SAD is highly preventable and mild cases can even be treated with holistic remedies. If you find yourself struggling through winter, try adding these into your wellness regimen.
Sunlight in a capsule, Vitamin D, is vital for keeping your serotonin levels healthy through the darker months. Check how many IBU’s is right for you and add it to your roster.
St. John’s Wart could be another helpful addition if you’re experiencing mild symptoms of depression. This supercharged weed has been found very effective as a treatment but can react with some medications. Best to consult your healthcare practitioner before taking it or any additional capsules.
We know, it’s probably cold outside and icy – not exactly big motivators to get your butt off the couch. But spending time in natural light is necessary for avoiding SAD.
In the winter, so many people commute to work in the dark, spend their day under fluorescent lights and then go home in the dark. If this is you, you need to make sure you’re getting outside. Walk a block or two on your breaks, early in the day preferred. Bundle up, and you may find the desire to do more.
It’s easy to slow down in winter. In part, we are programmed to! However, slowing down is not synonymous with stopping. As little as 15-30 minutes of activity a day can help to prevent SAD.
Try winterizing an outdoor summer sport you love, like adding crampons to trail running, so you’re also getting daylight exposure as well (critical for healthier sleep). Or pick up a winter sport like skiing or snowshoeing. Mountain views and beautiful winter scenery will take the chore right out of it.
Keep Eating Your Greens (and all the other good stuff)
Who doesn’t crave carbs in the winter? While this is a typical biological response, a diet too high in carbohydrates can lead to energy crashes, making symptoms of fatigue worse. (Sorry folks, but the same goes for caffeine!).
Make a conscious effort to keep using leafy greens and a rainbow of vegetables in every meal. Check out our Warm Winter Salad and Slightly Simpler Daal for inspiration. Try warm teas and Golden Milks to stay cozy.
Seek Light – Even Indoors
Let’s talk about artificial light helpers. A lightbox mimicking natural light is probably the most well-known treatment for SAD, and for good reason – it’s highly effective. However, these boxes can affect your sleep/wake cycle. Consult your doctor first or it could do more harm than good.
Newer on the scene is light therapy alarm clocks. These sunrise simulators are perfect for people who feel extra groggy waking up in the dark. Make sure you turn on the other lights in your house once you get out of bed. This tells the body it’s time to start functioning for the day.
Finally, have you ever tried an infrared sauna? If so, you’ve probably been introduced to chromotherapy, as these coloured light options are outfitted in most infrared saunas. Each colour can help promote health benefits by activating different biochemical and hormonal processes. Green is the recommended colour for treating SAD, but red can be used for an energy boost as well. (Cool, huh?)
As if you needed another reason to book a sauna session.
If you find yourself skipping out on social events or letting hobbies go stagnant, you could be experiencing a loss of interest, one of the subtler symptoms of SAD. It’s easy to blame a long day at work or tiring week but it all adds up and before you know it you’re in full hibernation mode.
It’s important to sit down and make a list (try the notes app on your phone for easy access!) of all the things that give you energy be it yoga, meditation, creative expression, social (or alone) time. Incorporate a few each week. If you feel yourself sliding back into bear-like habits, revisit your list and try an input ASAP.
Change your Perspective
Adopting the now popular Danish practice of Hygge can help you change the way you feel about winter. Hygge is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
That’s a heck of a lot better than “hanging in my jim-jams watching re-runs of Friends.”
Getting excited about getting cozy can help you go from an attitude of annoyance and aversion towards winter, to one of contentment and delight. So pull out your favourite candles or deck your place out with charming string lights.
If you’re in desperate need of a physical change of perspective and have the cash, book a sunny getaway south of the equator. As little as three days in the sun can reverse SAD symptoms. Not to mention having a vacation to look forward to can do wonders for your attitude.
Seek Professional Help
Most importantly, if you are feeling symptoms of depression talk to your doctor immediately. Don’t minimize your feelings or suffer in silence; forms of counselling and therapy can help. Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association to find resources and information. They are there for you if you need them.