As winter seems to stretch on many people may find themselves with a case of the winter blues.
It’s a condition can affect people in a variety of ways, according to registered psychologist Laura Casey Foss.
Casey Foss offers psychological services through her private practice, Mind Body Psychology, and working in partnership with Veitch Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre. She’s also the western directory for the Association of Psychology Newfoundland and Labrador.
Typically the winter blues leave people feeling a little lethargic, not really enjoying winter and all the extra tasks that come along with it.
On the more extreme side it can lead to depressive disorder with seasonal patterns — once known as seasonal affective disorder — a form of clinical depression that follows a seasonal pattern.
It occurs more frequently in northern countries, is more common in woman and occurs mostly in adults aged 20-50.
One of the hallmarks of the disorder is that sufferers experience a dramatic improvement in the spring.
It’s unclear exactly what causes the disorder, but Casey Foss said theories suggest decreased sunlight has an impact on people’s biological clocks. Serotonin, which regulates moods, and melatonin, which regulates sleep, both decrease.
She doesn’t have statistics on the number of people it affects because people don’t necessarily see doctor for it.
“A lot of people just call it the winter blues, and things get better in the spring and we move on from there.”
She said when it begins to affect a person’s social, work or school life, when it starts to have a functional impact is when people generally seek help.
But Casey Foss said there are things people can do to help themselves when those feelings start and one important thing involves their attitude towards winter.
“Find a way to enjoy it,” she said.
Get outside with your children, or your neighbour’s children, and build a snowman, she said. Go snowshoeing. Go for a walk and soak up some of that mid-day sun.
“It’s about finding a way to get outside and enjoying it,” said Casey Foss, who once hated winter. She said she moved away from the city partly because of it, but when she returned she learned to love it, especially the walks she takes with her dog.
When you can’t get out and enjoy it then celebrate being idle.
“Don’t mind it, stay in your pyjamas, cuddle up with the kids, watch a movie, do some yoga, be non-productive and enjoy it,” she said.
She also advises people to be social.
“Connectedness is our one-way ticket to happiness.”
If you feel that time is stretching without a break, then build one in. Make plans to do something special, to have something to look forward to.
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Above all, Casey Foss, said, be kind to yourself and know that you have the ability to put things in place for yourself so that next year won’t be so bad.
And if the winter blues seem to becoming more intense then see a doctor.
Symptoms of depressive disorder with seasonal patterns
• Sleeping more
• Low energy
• Intense cravings for carbohydrates
• Weight gain
• Withdrawal from social activities
• Difficulty concentrating
How to beat the winter blues
• Find a way to enjoy it
• Stay active — join a gym, find some online workouts
• Be social — get outside with friends, make dinner dates
• Eat your colours — make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need
• Celebrate being idle
Depressive disorder with seasonal patterns
• Affects 1.4 per cent of people in Florida
• Affects two to six per cent of Canadians
• 15 per cent of Canadians may experience a milder form
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