How to beat the winter blues during a pandemic

Many people notice a change in their energy and enthusiasm levels during the colder months. But for some, the change in mood is much more dramatic. If you become tired, moody and uninterested in things you used to enjoy when fall and winter roll around, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of clinical depression that typically affects sufferers during the cold-weather months. Many people suffer from  the “winter blues,” a general loss of positivity during the winter months, but between 2 and 3 percent of Canadians suffer from SAD.

This year, of course, we’re also dealing with the on-going impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s no surprise that many people are struggling right now – and if you’re one of those people, you’re not alone.

The good news is that whether you’re dealing with SAD, the winter blues or a case of pandemic exhaustion, there are some easy, affordable ways to help yourself feel better.

Put connection on the menu
Make a point of eating good food in good company. A well-balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and lean protein and lower in fat and sugar will help you get the nutrition you need to stay healthy. Preparing meals with friends and family can also be a soothing sensory activity that provides much-needed opportunities for social connection, whether you’re cooking in the same room or over Zoom.

Bundle up and get outside
Physical activity is known to help reduce stress and anxiety and increase your self-confidence. Exercising outside during the daytime exposes you to valuable daylight. It’s as simple as taking a brisk walk at lunch time, but we have lots of winter-specific exercise suggestions.Remember – every little bit of movement you do matters. Getting together with friends outdoors is also a pandemic-safe activity – win-win! (Not a fan of being outside in the cold? At least you’ll have going back inside to look forward to!)

Go toward the light
Open the blinds and sit near the window during the daytime – and if it’s perpetually grey where you live, talk to your doctor about using a SAD lamp. (In some communities, you can even borrow one from your public library!) At a time when we could all use a little extra light, don’t skimp on the twinkle lights and candles (battery-operated ones are safe to have around kids and pets).

Find your flow
Another way to improve your mood is to find a manual activity that you enjoy doing and can become engrossed in. Building dioramas, doing needlework or working on a jigsaw puzzle – they’re all activities that help you enter a state of “flow.” It might seem frivolous, but it’s great for your brain – and your mood will also benefit.

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of SAD, and the activities above don’t help improve your mood, talk to your doctor about strategies and treatment options that will help you feel like yourself again.

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