Shedding Some Light on Seasonal Blues

Shedding Some Light on Seasonal Blues

By Shirley Roberts

The month of December brings a lot of glitter in the way of Christmas tree lights, holiday festivities, and family and community celebrations. For some people, though, the glow is obscured by a sense of mental unwellness. In Canada, dampened spirits can be attributed to the change of seasons, shorter hours of daylight and less exposure to the sun.

A type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real thing and affects 2-3% of Canadians in their lifetime. A milder form of SAD, often referred to as the “winter blues”, affects 15% of Canadians. It triggers low mood and mild depression but doesn’t greatly affect our day-to-day functioning.

 Despite these statistics, Gouri Mukerjea, Mental Health Counsellor at Sherbourne Health, believes that the milder version is much more prevalent and can be more serious than how the numbers present. She hopes that the data help people to be more aware, and alert us to the need for self-care during the season.

According to Mukerjea, compounding seasonal changes is the impact of the pandemic on our ways of interacting with each other. We have relied on online mechanisms of communicating and people may be confused regarding the desire for in person vs. online connections.

 She suggests ways to make the transition to the winter season easier can be very simple but effective. They include Vitamin D, physical exercise, getting outside, taking advantage of sunny periods and grounding ourselves in nature. If we have to stay indoors, sit by a window. Nearby St. James Town, residents can easily access Allan Gardens Conservatory. Its five greenhouses bring a sense of the tropics, filled with seasonal plants, warm and visually stunning. It is accessible to the public with no admission fees. Allan Gardens Conservatory – City of Toronto

More ideas to support self-care are to dress warmly and eat mindfully (less carbohydrates and more fruits and vegetables). Particularly important, says Mukerjea, is to maintain our social contacts, accept invitations to social events, attend community gatherings and seek encouragement from family, friends and organizational supports. “Embrace winter – try something new that we can join and look forward to, like skating or walking groups.”

If we are experiencing changes in our mental health well-being that we are concerned about, we should reach out to a health care provider. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful as is light therapy (sitting in front of a specifically designed light box). Medication and group therapy are also helpful. Brief Therapy Sessions (one to three) are offered by Mukerjea at The Corner. The Corner – St. James Town ( Call for an appointment at 416-964-6657.

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