The changing weather can have a severe impact on an individual’s mood. You may have noticed that there has been a drop in your energy levels now that winter is in full force. You may be experiencing a change in your energy, sociability, sleeping habits and eating habits. This change of mood can be due to seasonal depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically becomes present in late fall and lasts until either spring or summer (1). Approximately 2-6% of all Canadians will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder within their lifetime (2).
Those at highest risk for developing this disorder are: younger adults, females, those with a family history, individuals located further away from the equator, as well as any individual currently diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder (1). Unfortunately, not everyone is able to travel to a sunny destination to escape the cold Canadian weather. However, there are still some things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. The first option is to maximize your light intake. This can be done by waking up early and taking advantage of all the daylight. If suffering from more severe symptoms, one can try light therapy, which involves daily exposure to bright light when symptoms present the strongest. The devices used in light therapy are made to emit a controlled level of light without any harmful ultraviolet rays (1). There can be side-effects that come with this type of therapy, therefore, it should be done with a trained mental health professional. The second option is to seek help from therapy. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment option for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This treatment combines strategies to address one’s cognitions or thoughts along with a technique called behavioral activation. Behavioural activation is a process which helps an individual identify activities that are engaging and provide joy, to help cope with the winter weather (1). A third option that can be done on one’s own time is to increase exercise and avoid isolation. Studies have shown that there are benefits of regular exercise in the form of structured exercise programs (3, 4). An option is to drop in on a gym class, or even follow an online exercise video. Additionally, it is helpful to try to make the effort to have interactions with other people. Talking about how you feel with the people you love is much more beneficial than keeping things inside. Most importantly, it is imperative to avoid self-diagnosis. It is always best to go and get an opinion from a trained professional. At the Therapy Centre, our team of experienced and dedicated psychologists and social workers work with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to assist clients struggling with depression, in addition to other concerns such as panic attacks, social anxiety and phobias. With two offices located in Oakville and Hamilton, we are accessible from Mississauga, Milton, Halton Hills, Guelph Wellington and the greater Niagara Region.
1) National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, March). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
2) Mood Disorder Association of Ontario. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions – Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Retrieved from https://www.mooddisorders.ca/faq/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad#t10n532
3) Stower, H. (2014). Linking exercise and depression. Nature Medicine, 20(11), 1241-1241. doi:10.1038/nm.3753
4) Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 202, 67-86. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063