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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Winter Blues?

November 28, 2016

15292647_10157961251360601_402230977_oThis time of year, the shortened days and chilly temperatures can take a toll on our mental health. Less daylight, more time spent indoors, and less physical activity can lead to a case of the winter blues. Many people report having less energy, experiencing lower mood, and having more intense food cravings during our long, cold winters.

There are things we can do, however, to help promote good mental health. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get outside during daylight hours. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, the light and air will help.
  • Exercise regularly. Whether indoors or outdoors, regular exercise boosts your mood and energy levels. Movement of any kind helps. Check out on Campus recreational services.
  • Connect with friends. Make a point of spending time with people with whom you can chat, laugh, or be active.
  • Develop good sleep habits. Whenever possible, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Leave smartphones and tablets in another room.
  • Eat a balanced diet. We tend to crave carbs more in the winter, so make sure you’re still eating some veggies and fruit daily.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sometimes, the seasonal change can trigger the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a treatable mental health condition. SAD is a type of Clinical Depression that is related to changes in the seasons. SAD symptoms that are specific to Winter depression are:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

(Mayo Clinic, 2014)

If you’re feeling low for days at a time, have thoughts of suicide, or are using alcohol/drugs to cope, see your doctor or Counselling services.

Getting Better

1765Treatments for SAD can include medication, talk therapy, and light therapy. Light therapy involves sitting near a special lamp so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.

In Winnipeg, light therapy lamps can be rented from the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba. In addition, two branches of the Winnipeg Public Library have light therapy stations for public use.

If you’re feeling winter blues, whether it’s SAD or not, please reach out to someone you trust and talk about it.