As the days are starting to get shorter and the weather starting to get colder, some have the tendency to experience feelings of sadness, low energy, decreased interest in activities, change in food cravings, irritability, weight gain and more. This is commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is very common in northern climates such as British Columbia.
It is thought that this develops from the impact that decreased light has on our circadian rhythm. Dysregulation in this rhythm can have downstream influence on our neurotransmitters and hormones (such as Vitamin D, melatonin, serotonin). Thus, it is important to be assessed by a naturopathic doctor to see if there are any other factors at play.
How to overcome the winter blues:
- Light Therapy: the use of a light box that emits full spectrum light first thing in the morning for approximately 30 minutes daily,
- Vitamin D: is very commonly known to be produced in the body from sunshine. However, a very large portion of the Canadian population may be deficient, and should be supplemented. Having your blood work done to test your current Vitamin D level can help ensure optimal dosing.
- Nutrition: foods high in sugar, caffeine and alcohol can contribute to mood fluctuations and low energy. Aim for high protein, high fat and low carbohydrate diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise: incorporate an exercise routine at least 3-4x/week for 30 minutes to help increase energy, improve sleep, socialize, manage weight and decrease depression-like symptoms. Even better if you can do it in fresh air!
- Herbal Medicine: talk to your ND about botanicals that may be used to improve feelings of sadness and low energy.
- Practice adequate sleep hygiene: consistent bedtime and wake-up time, no screens at least 30 minutes before bed, sleeping in a cool/dry/quiet room, avoiding stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, sugars, exercise) before bed.
Other ideas to consider:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Pharmaceuticals (if needed)
- Tropical Vacation!
Schedule an appointment today at IHC to discuss the best strategy for you this winter season. Call (604)888-8325 to book an appointment.
Munir S, Abbas M. Seasonal Depressive Disorder. [Updated 2023 Mar 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK568745/
Dr. Sarah Denotter, ND