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How to beat the winter blues this year

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

First Step Men's Therapy helps men across Ontario, Canada develop healthier relationships with themselves and others. We offer individual, couples, and group counselling to men and their families online using our secure telehealth platform.

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Recently, I noted that my mood had changed quite substantially and I couldn't put my finger on what had changed. Things in life were going well overall, yet around November I noticed that things had changed significantly in my overall mood, feeling, and body. After speaking with a health professional, I learned that I may be struggling with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it is thought to be related to the reduced amount of sunlight during winter. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately 2-3% of Canadians will suffer from SAD at some point in their life. Many individuals with SAD are unaware that they may be struggling with SAD, and often their symptoms might be seen as indicative of another issue or problem.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

SAD can cause a number of symptoms, including:

- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable

- Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy

- Sleeping more than usual

- Feeling tired or having low energy

- Difficulty concentrating

- Changes in your appetite or weight

What causes SAD?

The exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown, but it is thought to be related to the reduced amount of sunlight during winter. This can interfere with the body’s production of serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate mood. Other possible causes of SAD include the body’s internal clock, which can be thrown off by the shorter days and longer nights of winter, and the drop in temperature, which can lead to feelings of fatigue and low energy.

Can SAD be treated?

SAD can be treated with light therapy, antidepressant medications, or psychotherapy. It is best to speak with your doctor regarding your symptoms, to rule out any other possible factors or causes. Light therapy usually involves a device/unit that mimics outside light and while it is not approved by the FDA or other government regulatory bodies, it has shown to reduce symptoms by up to 50% in 61%-70% of study participants in a recent study.

Psychotherapy can also be a helpful tool in combatting SAD and working towards healthier coping tools and strategies throughout the season and beyond. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in treating SAD. CBT focuses on changing the negative thought patterns and behaviors that are associated with SAD.

** Please speak to your family doctor if you believe you may have SAD, as they can rule out any any possibilities and refer you to the appropriate pharmacological treatment plan

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First Step Men's Therapy offers counselling and therapy across Ontario using our secure telehealth platform. We offer therapy for anxiety, depression, grief, sex addiction, porn addiction, trauma, first responders, men's issues, and substance misuse. We work with men in Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Mississauga, Barrie, Hamilton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Stratford, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Brampton, Peterborough, Milton, and Niagara Falls - and everywhere in between.

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