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November 4, 2022
How To Manage Seasonal Transitions And Mood Changes

Hayley Meyer

A black female looks sad as she sits on a windowsill looking out to a snowfall.

Do I Have The Winter Blues Or Seasonal Affective Disorder?

You may experience conflicting feelings as summer winds down and signs of fall appear. Even if you are a fall person, you may be aware of a dip in your mood as the days get shorter and the sun doesn’t shine as brightly. 

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the ‘winter blues’ affects approximately 15% of the Canadian population. Another 2-3% experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a clinical condition that includes serious depressive symptoms that present in certain seasons. 

Symptoms of the winter blues and SAD

While the winter blues and SAD greatly differ in intensity, the symptoms are similar and include:

  • hypersomnia
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • low feelings or depression
  • difficulty engaging socially
  • binge eating

If you experience some of these symptoms during the transition to colder months, it’s especially important to prioritize your mental health. 

Tips to boost your mood

Here are six tips that may help you better cope with your mood during the fall and winter. 

1. Light exposure 

Your circadian rhythm is the system that helps your body determine when to sleep and when to wake. The lack of daylight during the winter can affect your circadian rhythm. This means that your body may make more melatonin and struggle to recognize when we should be awake because hey, it’s dark out! 

Bright light therapy, especially in the morning, may help with this. Light therapy lamps are readily available in stores or online. To get the maximum benefit from light therapy, it’s recommended that you spend 20-60 minutes of exposure to a 10,000-lux light daily during times of reduced daylight. 

2. Create a routine

Morning and evening routines can help your brain and body know when to wake up or wind down. Whether your routine lasts five minutes or an hour, it will signal to your brain that you’re shifting gears. With repetition, this routine can help your body prepare to either wake up or fall asleep.  

3. Get your vitamins

Living in the Great White North comes with many benefits. However, most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, even during the summer months. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to symptoms of depression, and we often need a higher amount in the winter. If you’re unsure of how much to take, you can consult your local pharmacy or family doctor.

4. Get moving!

The pandemic has made it more difficult to get out and about, and many people are still adjusting to these challenges. If fall and winter activities don’t excite you, there are plenty of ways to get moving at home! Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost your mood. 

At home, things like YouTube exercise videos, yoga, or a dance party while cleaning are great options. If you want to get out and about, you could join a new class or rec team, go to the gym, or walk with a friend in the park. There are many great ways to get moving!

5.  Medication

Medication is a personal decision. If your symptoms are severe—or if you have a clinical diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder—you may want to talk with loved ones and your doctor or psychiatrist. Like other types of depression, SAD is associated with serotonin dysfunction in the brain. Medication may help ease symptoms and make it easier to cope. 

6. Ask for help 

It may feel like a herculean task to seek help when you’re going through a difficult time. But talking to a loved one or a professional can be immensely helpful. You can talk about your feelings with someone you trust or find a therapist to help develop coping strategies. Either way, you don’t have to go through this alone. 

Your workplace or school may also offer support services. Talk to a professor, advisor, or manager to see what’s available. Online services are widely available as well, including here at Shift Collab. 

However you choose to boost your mood this fall and winter, you’re not alone! Check out another blog, reach out to a friend, sign up for Mood Boost Mondays, or reach out to one of our trained therapists for some one-on-one care. 

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