By NICOLE JOBES
Winter got you feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed? It’s probably nothing to worry about – unless you find your mood slipping around the time the clocks go back in October, until they spring ahead in March.
You could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. So grab your snowshoes, throw on your toque and get happy while the sunlight lasts.
The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that one to three per cent of Canadians suffer from cases of seasonal depression that are bad enough to affect their ability to cope with life.
Of patients suffering from a major depression, 11 per cent are also likely to develop depression as the longer daylight hours of spring and summer fade into autumn and winter’s longer hours of darkness, according to the CMHA.
It’s a harsh reality of what it means to be Canadian. We have our delicious beaver tales and our ice hockey, but seasonal depression seems to be a Canadianism that goes unspoken and unnoticed by many.
Those of us not working as lumber jacks or fur traders sometimes pull a graveyard shift. Does it mess with our mood? Absolutely. Not only is it unpleasant to stay up way beyond your bedtime, but in these long winter nights, you may find yourself slipping deeper and deeper into a Canadian coma of seasonal induced depression.
Not to worry though. As with all ailments, there are a variety of treatments. One of the most popular to treat legitimate SAD is light therapy.
A very patient Canadian sits directly in front of a special light board designed to shine light toward the eyes once or twice a day, from 30 minutes to a couple of hours; light therapy is estimated to be effective in up to 80 per cent of cases. The light box should emit the equivalent output of eight fluorescent bulbs. Don’t forget to remove your toque first.
Light therapy works to regulate your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that lets your body know when it’s time to sleep or when it’s time to wake up. Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota believe the dark winter months may disrupt melatonin cycles.
I am a big advocate in self-help. Light therapy? Not for me. It’s probably true that a lot of cases of seasonal depression go undiagnosed, as do many diseases, and frankly, it’s difficult enough being a student as it is.
Getting happy and making positive changes to your lifestyle can never hurt. If you exercise, try doing it outdoors when it’s light outside. If you live in Winnipeg it’s probably not the greatest idea in -40 C, so perhaps try doing your sit-ups in front of a large window instead.
Watch your diet. With Christmas behind us we should now be eating salads and apples to help ourselves lose that cookie belly. Eat foods that are not overly greasy or hard to digest.
If you’re thinking about booking a few sessions at a tanning salon, you might want to reconsider. You need visible light to boost your spirits — not the ultraviolet rays emitted by tanning beds. The World Health Organization warns that tanning beds pose a risk of skin cancer and no one under the age of 18 should use one.
Despite the warning, I have to admit I still go tanning. If I didn’t tan I’d just blend right into the snow.
Since the snow is here to stay for a few more months, it’s a good idea to make sure you are not slipping into a winter-induced sadness. So hop on your dogsleds and mush back to your igloos and enjoy a healthy lunch, and soak up the daylight as much as you can. Remember: winter may be frigid and dark, but it’s what makes us Canadian.