WHEN THE COLD AP­PROACHES, MY MOOD DARK­ENS. HOW CAN I COPE?

For those who strug­gle with their men­tal health, au­tumn can rep­re­sent the be­gin­ning of the end – the end of warm weather and care­free days. Here are a few sug­ges­tions to help you pre­pare for the win­ter months.

Best Health - - ADVICE - EL­IZ­A­BETH WIENER AND LISA BROOKMAN El­iz­a­beth Wiener is an ed­u­ca­tor who lives with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Lisa Brookman is a clin­i­cal psy­chother­a­pist based in Mon­treal. To­gether, they form WiseWomenCanada.com @wisewomencanada

EL­IZ­A­BETH SAYS... A

THE FALL IS NO­TO­RI­OUSLY DIF­fi­cult for me. Re­turn­ing to school and work and an­tic­i­pat­ing the cold, dark days ahead of­ten makes me want to crawl into bed and sleep un­til April! For­tu­nately, I’ve learned to pre­pare for the on­slaught of win­ter with some helpful tech­niques that make the sea­sonal tran­si­tion eas­ier.

I swear by my sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der (SAD) light ther­apy lamp. Ex­po­sure to light emit­ted from SAD lamps causes a chem­i­cal change in the brain that can ac­tu­ally re­duce many symp­toms of de­pres­sion. As rec­om­mended by my doc­tor, I use mine first thing in the morn­ing for 20 to 30 min­utes and feel a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in my mood.

While I love to be ac­tive all year round, ex­er­cise is a non-ne­go­tiable part of my fall rou­tine. The en­dor­phins pro­duced by phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are known to be a men­tal health booster, and on days when I break a sweat, I feel emo­tion­ally lighter and more hope­ful.

The im­pend­ing ar­rival of win­ter can se­duce us into seek­ing so­lace in un­healthy foods, such as ice cream and fried foods. While eat­ing poorly makes me feel bet­ter tem­po­rar­ily, it’s short lived. The crash al­ways comes after a sugar high. I try to make smart food choices that nour­ish my body and mind.

LISA SAYS... A

FALL IS OF­TEN THE BUSIEST TIME OF YEAR IN MY prac­tice. The shorter days and cooler tem­per­a­tures gen­er­ate a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in mood. For those who strug­gle with SAD, the lack of sun­light of­ten trig­gers feel­ings of sad­ness, dif­fi­culty get­ting out of bed and a dis­tinct lack of mo­ti­va­tion. But with the right tools, it is pos­si­ble to com­bat sea­sonal blues, man­age symp­toms of SAD and live a happy and pro­duc­tive life all year round.

Fight the urge to hide un­der the cov­ers by avoid­ing the snooze but­ton and get­ting up first thing in the morn­ing. Once you’ve over­come the ini­tial chal­lenge of wak­ing up, make your bed and leave the bed­room. Take a few ex­tra min­utes to have your cof­fee and read the news. The temp­ta­tion to crawl back into bed is greatly re­duced once you’re up and about and your bed is made for the day.

Adopt­ing a grat­i­tude prac­tice can shift your fo­cus from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the doom and gloom of dark win­ter days to feel­ing ap­pre­cia­tive of the bless­ings in your life. Make it a habit to set aside some time at the be­gin­ning or end of every day to write down five things you’re grate­ful for. They don’t have to be life-chang­ing events or deep philo­soph­i­cal thoughts; some­times we’re sim­ply grate­ful for a hot cup of tea on a cold day or a hug from a loved one. The point is to sim­ply ac­knowl­edge the things that make you smile and feel pos­i­tive.

Plan some­thing to look for­ward to every week. Whether it’s a cof­fee date with an old friend, a movie night with your sig­nif­i­cant other or a visit to an art ex­hibit, mark­ing en­joy­able ac­tiv­i­ties on your cal­en­dar will help you move through the weeks with an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment rather than count­ing down the days un­til spring!

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