BODY & SOUL: Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

How to treat the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder

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How to treat the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder

Commonly referred to as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression directly related to the lack of sunlight during the winter months. Researchers believe that circadian rhythms, or the body’s internal clock, as well as melatonin (a hormone which regulates wakefulness) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness), all play a role in this condition.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, between two and three per cent of the Canadian population suffers from SAD, and approximately 15 per cent will experience a milder form of the disorder during their lifetime.

Photo, bigstockphoto.com
Photo: bigstockphoto.com

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D is essential in maintaining healthy bones, and helps to support our immune systems. It has also been linked to our moods and cognitive function. Vitamin D is naturally created when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Talk to your pharmacist about Vitamin D supplements, and how they can make up for any deficiencies. For most people, this can be added to your daily vitamin routine. Vitamin D3 is one of the best forms, so check the label carefully.

Light therapy

One of the simplest things that you can do for yourself, which has positive benefits, is to sit near a light therapy box. This small device emits a bright light that mimics natural light. Before purchasing, speak to a health professional to see if this treatment is right for you, and, if so, what to look for. Research has shown that up to 80 per cent of those who suffer from SAD have experienced significant relief with light therapy.

Stay active

Going outside for a walk has amazing healing powers. However, with winter conditions or other limitations, that might not be possible. If at home, keep moving as much as you can by taking the stairs or download an exercise app. Exercise naturally releases endorphins, and stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters that naturally boost, and regulate, your mood. To help motivate each other, commit to an exercise routine with a friend or family member.

Eat nutrient-rich foods

The winter blues can increase cravings for junk food and carbohydrates. Incorporate more fruits and veggies, and opt for healthier carbs. Sweet potatoes have approximately 28 per cent fewer calories than regular potatoes, and contain a plethora of antioxidants.

Talk to a professional

Treatment for depression may include prescription medication, as well as interpersonal and cognitive behavioural therapies. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most widely prescribed class of antidepressants. Tri-cyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are also widely used. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to help create an effective plan.

A pharmacist for more than 20 years, Alan Strashok is also associated with Express Scripts Canada.

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