Autumn is a beautiful time of year. The leaves change into majestic colors. The temperature cools down. The routine of school and work resumes. However, this transitional season reminds us that winter is close behind.
While some people look forward to the winter sports, playing in the snow and the crisp cold air, the anticipation of this change brings dread to many. For some people, winter represents gray, dreary weather and long days inside.
There is scientific evidence that the decreased amount of sunlight can negatively impact a person’s mood. This is often referred to as the winter blues but there is a medical diagnosis called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is an often over looked illness for many reasons. It is usually temporary, lasting for the few months of late autumn and winter. Once the sunlight is more available in the spring, people usually perk back up. Secondly, many are not even aware that there is such a diagnosis and as a result, do not realize that there is treatment to help cope with the symptoms.
Symptoms usually include feeling sad and/or irritable, sluggishness, increased sleep, decreased energy, loss of interest in activities and isolative tendencies. Since there is little knowledge about this type of depression, most people just “tough it out”.
Luckily, there are several coping mechanisms to improve a person’s mood as related to SAD. First, there are medications. Secondly, talk therapy is very helpful and reaching out to a counsellor or psychotherapist can be very effective. There are also several things you can do at home to help. Maintain a healthy diet. Exercise is very helpful as is spending time outside receiving some of the available sun rays and fresh air on a daily basis.
Another effective tool is light therapy which uses a very bright light that shines at least 10,000 lux that mimics real sunlight. A common practice is to sit a few feet away for 30 minutes on a daily basis. It usually helps reduce symptoms by 3-4 weeks and is most effective when started in early autumn, rather than waiting until symptoms are severe.
Take time to take care of yourself this winter by engaging in these effective coping skills to prevent the deterioration of this condition.
By: Maritza Rodriguez-Arseneau
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA