The winter blues: they’re for real

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Almost out of nowhere, it seems the calendar has turned from October to November. After recently undergoing a time change that saw the end of daylight savings for 2018, the cold weather is inevitably around the corner and the days will get shorter along with it.

These things aren’t enjoyable, the darkness and frigid weather is something we all deal with annually and there’s no doubt that the elements can weigh on you. You’ve probably heard of the term “winter blues”, but what if I told you this wasn’t just some old saying to describe our feelings towards the cold weather?

As it turns out, the winter blues aren’t in your imagination, they’re acknowledged by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and are a very real thing.

A news release from the CMHA in January 2017 stated the following:

“Research in Ontario suggests that 15 per cent of the general population have experienced the winter blues, which can include changes in appetite and lethargy as the days grow shorter.”

Another condition that is commonly passed off as the winter blues is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, coincidentally known more simply by the acronym “SAD”. SAD is a form of depression that approximately 2-3 per cent of Canadians will experience at some point in their lifetime, while another 15 per cent will experience a less disruptive version of the condition.

It’s a distinct condition because of how it tends to come and go in cycles with the changing of the seasons, with the most common cases popping up around this time of year and running through the winter months. Interestingly, according to the CMHA, there are still many questions revolving around SAD.

“It isn’t really clear what causes SAD, but it’s thought that winter SAD may be caused by lack of sunlight,” the CMHA said. In addition to this, it’s considered to have a genetic aspect involved in its diagnosis as well. “13–17 per cent of people who develop SAD have an immediate family member with the disorder.”

If you feel like you are noticing a change in your behaviour with the changing of the seasons, consult a doctor, as they can help rule out any other potential reasons for your symptoms. Your mental health is important.

Now with all of that being said, here are some of the top recommended tips to help curb your winter blues to help make life as free from their effects as possible.

Get outside! That’s where the sun is, after all. Because the days have shortened and we have less sunlight it’s important to take advantage of the hours that the sun is up. Open up your curtains, let the sun shine in through the windows. It’ll help!

Stay Active! It’s easy to want to bundle up and stay in bed in the cold weather months but we are humans, not bears, so it is not time to hibernate. Activity and exercise will help relieve stress, have a positive effect on your mental health and more often than not will force you outside into the sunlight.

Healthy Eating! This is a no-brainer, but it can’t be stressed enough (no pun intended). Keeping your diet in top shape by incorporating fresh foods will work wonders in benefitting your mental (and physical) health.

Vacation! Why do you think the prices go up for tropical vacation destinations this time of year? Okay yeah, let’s just pretend I never said this. I know you’re broke.

While not everyone will be affected by SAD or the winter blues, there’s a chance they could sneak up on you or somebody you know. Try and make an effort to ensure you’re involving these tips into your everyday life, and let’s be proactive about it. Nobody needs the additional draining feeling brought on by the cold, dark weather. Take care of yourselves mentally and physically and we’ll make it through the winter blues once again.

 

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