We’re not called Winterpeg for nothing. Winter takes up a huge part of our lives and, while we’re proud of being so hardcore, mocking other places, which shall not be named, for shutting down after a couple centimetres of snow, we also struggle. Mood is low, energy is low. Life feels difficult. We remember hard times from winters past and wish it could stay summer much longer… For many of us, our relationship with summer is a little bit desperate. We try to jam in every ‘summer’ activity we to make the most of those few weeks and feel a mild panic when we see the first yellow leaf, followed by shorter days and cooler nights.
For some, these depressive symptoms are as predictable as winter itself. The Mayo Clinic characterizes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression as…
- Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy and feeling sluggish
- Having problems with sleeping too much
- Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having thoughts of not wanting to live
If you are experiencing these things, talk to your doctor and/ or therapist. Not everyone’s symptoms are extreme but I think we can all do better in this season. We can find a ways to live with, and even embrace winter, without feeling defeated by it year after year. For the many years that I have lived in this climate, I have picked up a few things that have vastly improved winter for me and, according to several research studies, work well for others too.
1. Get outside.
Make sure you have the best winter gear you can afford. Check the temperature, sometimes it seems like it’s -30C for days or weeks on end, usually there is at least one part of the day that will not put you at imminent risk of frost bite. Try to get outside for at least 20 minutes a day, even if you only get out after dark (because it’s dark at 4pm), still get out. Find a routine, a route to walk, etc. to make this a regular part of your day, ideally one that leads to trees/nature.
2. Find fun reasons to be outside.
If you don’t have a dog to force you out, and even if you do, commit to trying some winter activities, skating, snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing. Find a friend who does one of those things and ask them to take you. If you don’t like it, try something else.
3. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about
Recent research links depression with low levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D and Depression Study. conditions My former nurse practitioner states that everyone in Manitoba should be taking vitamin D. Most pharmacies have over the counter vitamin D drops. Your pharmacist should be able to tell you if there’s any reason why you shouldn’t be taking it (ie medication interactions, health conditions, etc.).
4. Consider getting a sun lamp
These are everywhere and range widely in price. Recommended use is ½ hour in the morning, at an angle where you are not looking directly into it. If you have a history of mania or find your energy levels increasing to the point where sleep is disrupted or others become concerned for you, talk to your doctor before continuing use.
5. Check out the Norwegian concept of Hygge (roughly translates, “cozy, content”)
Norwegians have a similar climate to Manitoba. They are also considered one of the happiest people in the world. (Note, they want people to know that this doesn’t necessary make them the friendliest, just the happiest…)
They recommend the following for increasing cozy/content feelings:
– Warm blankets
– Sharing food with friends
Check out more about Hygge here: How to Hygge.
For more on managing depression and sadness check out