Dark Days

We all tend to feel differently based on the weather outside. If it’s a sunny day, we feel more energized and optimistic. On a rainier day and during the darker months of the year, we may feel more dreary, demotivated or downright depressed. When these emotional states make you feel like a completely different person, it may be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder and the need for support.

Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to set in as we head into the darker, winter months when we have less exposure to sunlight. Not everyone is affected by this in the same way, but Seasonal Affective Disorder does seem to have a familial component with approximately 15% of sufferers having immediate family members experiencing the same issues.

What are some of the symptoms?
• sleeping more, or having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
• fatigue, and difficulty carrying out daily tasks
• appetite change, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
• weight gain
• feeling sad, guilty and lacking confidence
• feeling hopeless
• irritability and feelings of stress
• avoiding people or activities, including physical contact

Tips to Ease Your Winter SAD Symptoms:
• Spend more time outdoors during the day being active. Physical activity relieves stress, builds energy and increases both your physical and mental well-being and resilience. Try a noon-hour walk!
• Arrange the spaces you spend time in to maximize sunlight exposure, like keeping blinds open and moving furniture so you sit near a window.
• Trim tree branches or hedges that may be blocking some of the light from getting into your home.
• Install skylights and add lamps.
• Try to resist the carbohydrate and sleep cravings that come with SAD. Focus on balanced meals and snacks filled with vegetables, fruit, protein and whole grain foods. Try to create a sleep routine of 8 or 9 hours per night.

For some people, more significant support is needed. Don’t diagnose yourself—speak to your doctor or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on mental health or any mental illness.