The winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. You may find yourself feeling more lethargic and down overall. Although you may feel more gloomy than usual, the winter blues typically don’t hinder your ability to enjoy life. But if your winter blues start permeating all aspects of your life-from work to relationships-you may be facing SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. Most people with SAD experience symptoms in late fall and throughout the winter months. The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown, but it is more frequent in populations farther from the equator, due to a decrease in sunlight hours.
In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunny days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
The Myth about Suicide around the Holidays
Suicide rates are not higher at Christmastime; in fact, suicide rates are fairly consistent throughout the year. This myth has been perpetuated by popular culture, such as movies like It’s a Wonderful Life. This myth can actually detract from the real facts surrounding suicide, and the temptation of the media and other informers to refer to it may mean a missed opportunity to effectively and responsibly spread awareness about suicide.
Not only is this a myth, but in fact, some researchers claim that the holidays can lessen the chance of suicide, as people feel more connected to those around them. Despite this, we can all agree that the holidays can indeed be a stressful time. Loneliness, intensification of feelings of loss, financial hardships, family conflict and substance misuse can increase during the holidays.
Talking about Mental Health
Combating seasonal affective disorder can be difficult. It is easy to feel isolated even when loved ones are around. That being said, it’s okay to not be okay. Holidays can be joyous occasions to celebrate, but also opportunities to connect with other individuals. Try to find a safe space where you can talk with one or more trusted family members about your situation. Mental health is important and should never be dealt with alone.
Symptoms of SAD can be treated in a variety of ways including light therapy, pharmaceutical medications, spending time outside and increasing physical activity. You may want to consider taking Vitamin D supplements, as the angle of the sun during this time of year, in Canada, does not provide enough naturally.
Remember self-care and take the time to be mindful of your own mental health this time of year; remember to do the things you love. Happy Holidays!
Distress Centre Calgary 24/7 Crisis Line: 403.266.HELP (4357)
Mental Health Helpline 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-877-303-2642
Suicide Prevention Crisis Services Canada: Call 1.833.456.4566 or Text 45645
ConnecTeen 24/7 Crisis Line: 403-264-TEEN (8336)
Apps for Mental Health available on iOS/Android mobile devices:
-Calm-Meditation and Mindfulness
– What’s Up? – Mental Health
Note: All medical information and statistics from the “Centre for Addiction and Mental Health” and the “Centre for Suicide Prevention” websites. The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency number immediately.