Seasonal Affective Disorder

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The Canadian Mental Health Association recognizes how our moods can often be affected by the weather and the seasons. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.
Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year!
Do you notice any recent shifts as we have less sun and more overcast and rainy days?
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Oversleeping— sometimes an increase of 2 to 4 or more hours per day
Lethargy (low energy)
Intense craving for carbohydrates
Weight gain
Withdrawal from social contacts
Depressed mood occurring over at least two consecutive winters, alternating with non depressed periods in the spring and summer

There are many strategies that can assist with SAD such as:
Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or at work.
Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Increasing your fitness can also make you feel better about yourself, which can lift your mood.

Counselling/Psychotherapy
(This can be short term or long-term treatment, depending on the severity of symptoms.)
Purchasing a light box (tool that produces light to be used indoors)
Medications (Physician prescribed for those who have severe symptoms)
Vitamins and Supplements

There are also several Mind-body therapies that may help relieve depression symptoms including:
Acupuncture
Yoga
Meditation
Guided imagery
Massage therapy

About the Author: Meagan Hamilton M.A., R.C.C. is a Registered Counsellor at Evoke Wellness who works with adolescents and adults. She has a client-centered approach and strives to assist her clients in leading their own personal journey to wellness.
Sources:
http://www.cmha.ca

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