We the North get a little SAD


By Emilie Paradis

Has fall got you singing the blues?

Fall has honoured us with her colourful foliage, crisp fresh air and crunchy apples. But to some of us, despite the beauty bestowed upon us by Mother Nature, fall can bring a feeling of lethargy and sadness. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression triggered by a change of season and the colder, darker, shorter days. About two to six per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime while another 15 per cent experience a milder form of it. The exact causes of SAD are unclear, but theories attribute the disorder to the reduction of daylight hours in winter.

SAD can influence our quality of life and relationships, it can and leave us unable to perform at our best. Knowing the symptoms of SAD and tools for coping can help reduce them.

What are the symptoms? They include low mood, lack of interest and pleasure, decreased energy, change in weight and appetite, craving for more comfort food, trouble focusing and sleeping, social isolation, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

What causes it? A main factor is where you live – northern regions, like Canada, have less sunlight which can cause a vitamin D deficiency. Genetic predisposition may play a role, and so could dealing with other illnesses or neurological issues.

How can we combat the symptoms?

  1. Supplement with vitamin D (liquid gel caps taken with food). Eat more EPA fatty acids found in foods rich in Omega 3 (wild salmon, small fish, oyster, seaweed) or take supplements.
  2. Get more light. Clinical research shows potential for red light therapy to treat SAD and other forms of major depression. Depending on the size of the infrared light, you can expose a part of your body or the whole body. A search online will show where you can buy affordable red light therapy units. You need to get at least a 10,000 Lux lamp. Light therapy is best used in the morning for 10 to 20 minutes; using the lamp too late in the day may impact your sleep. However, there is nothing better than real sunlight, so find time to go outside and soak up the natural light and some Vitamin D.
  3. Exercise! It’s not always something that we the have energy for, especially when feeling the blues – even those who are regularly active sometimes find it difficult to get up and go. But movement produces energy. Focus on how good you will feel after and how proud you will be.
  4. Socialize. When our mood is low, we tend to isolate ourselves when we should do exactly the opposite. Get out with friends, find group activities that you can join for the season, meet new people.
  5. Nutrition. What we eat absolutely impacts our wellbeing. Processed, sugary foods and too much alcohol can decrease our energy and vitality. Why not take a cooking class to learn how to prepare a great healthy meal at home to share with your loved ones?

If symptoms are severe or difficult to manage, check with a doctor, a psychiatrist or another mental health professional to seek help. And make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

Emilie Paradis is a holistic nutritionist, personal trainer and mobility coach and is co-owner of InStep.

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