HEALTH & WELL­NESS

5 ways to beat sea­sonal de­pres­sion

IN Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Karen Kwan

Re­lieve the anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion that comes with win­ter blues

Win­ter is painted as a happy sea­son of fluffy white snow filled with evenings snug­gling in front of a fire­place, days of shred­ding the slopes, nights of to­bog­gan­ing and laughs with friends and loved ones over hot tod­dies. But for some peo­ple, the cold, short days can make them feel as though they can’t get out of bed in the morn­ing, their mood as grey and grim as Toronto’s win­ter sky. If you feel lethar­gic, your mood has been lower than Mariah Carey’s neck­line for more than a cou­ple of weeks, and you’re not be­ing the so­cial but­ter­fly that you usu­ally are, it may be time to see your doc­tor. For less se­vere symp­toms of sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der (SAD), a few life­style changes could help you feel more like your­self again.

Spend time out­doors dur­ing the day

Fight the urge to hi­ber­nate in­side all win­ter. Get­ting out­side for some fresh air dur­ing the day, even if the sun is not shin­ing, can do won­ders for your mood. “I know it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine putting on all those lay­ers for a quick walk dur­ing your lunch hour, for ex­am­ple,” says Jesse Han­son, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of Helix Health­care Group in Toronto. “But when you com­mute in and out of work and it’s dark out­side, and spend your week­ends in­doors, it doesn’t help your men­tal state to be clouded in dark­ness all the time.” He rec­om­mends tak­ing ad­van­tage of what lit­tle day­light we have in the win­ter with a walk to help re­duce cor­ti­sol (a stress hor­mone) lev­els.

Eat to boost your mood

If you’re suf­fer­ing from SAD, your level of sero­tonin, aka the feel-good hor­mone, has de­creased. Han­son rec­om­mends a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids—think oily fatty fish such as salmon, her­ring and mack­erel—since th­ese es­sen­tial fatty acids will help boost your sero­tonin. Mak­ing sure you get enough omega-3s is also im­por­tant be­cause when you’re low in sero­tonin, your body will crave sero­tonin-pro­duc­tion trig­gers in the form of sug­ary, pro­cessed carbs like dough­nuts and pie. Th­ese high glycemic in­dex foods will only send you on a roller­coaster of sugar highs fol­lowed by crash­ing, which may worsen your mood.

Main­tain your usual sched­ule

You may not feel like you want to rise and shine when it’s pitch black out­side, but you should aim to main­tain your usual sleep­ing sched­ule and meal­times so as to avoid overindulging in ei­ther. Which is not to say ev­ery­thing in your life should be rou­tine, says Han­son. Plan for week­end get­aways, try a new sport and get to­gether with friends. “Th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties will keep you go­ing.”

Try light ther­apy

It may not fit your home decor but a light ther­apy lamp may be­come your favourite home ac­c­ces­sory. There are at-home lamps de­signed to mimic sun­light to lift your low mood. Han­son rec­om­mends a lamp that emits broad-spec­trum light while fil­ter­ing out most UV wave­length. He cau­tions that the lights are not reg­u­lated by Health Canada, so be sure to fol­low the lamp’s di­rec­tions when it comes to how many min­utes daily to use it.

Im­merse your­self in a sound bath

Open to try­ing al­ter­na­tive ther­a­pies? Re­search on­line for a well­ness cen­tre near you that of­fers sound baths, which stim­u­late the body on a cel­lu­lar level. Dur­ing a ses­sion, you will sit in a pod-like bed as you lis­ten to dif­fer­ent types of sounds that cre­ate vi­bra­tions cre­ated to help re­lax you into an al­pha brain­wave state. Han­son, who has found this treat­ment ef­fec­tive for clients, says they of­ten de­scribe feel­ing a soar­ing or fly­ing feel­ing af­ter a sound bath.

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