Plowing through the winter blahs


If you’re feeling sluggish this winter season, take heart because you are certainly not alone. According to a recent Ontario survey, up to 90 percent of people reported changes in their energy level, mood, appetite and sleep patterns during the winter months.

“Most people living in northern regions experience the winter blues at some point,” says Patty Allen, Health Educator at Carleton’s Health and Counselling Services. “We have a natural instinct to want to hibernate.”

Allen says the lack of daylight hours we experience from November to April causes us to want to sleep more and eat more comfort foods, which are often high in carbohydrates, just as our ancient ancestors would have done for survival. The decrease in sunlight can also make us feel less motivated, both at work and at home, but the important thing is to keep active, as this will boost energy levels.

Other tips for shrugging off the blues include turning on more lights and opening curtains to make your work and living space brighter, using bright colours on your walls and exercising outdoors. Allen also suggests trying something new.

“Winter is a good time to take up a new hobby that will provide a different interest for you to focus on,” says Allen.

However, Allen notes that for a small number of people the symptoms of low mood and low energy are unmanageable and lead to a form of clinical depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Researchers believe that the shorter daylight hours may lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain of susceptible people.

Allen says that those who are concerned about the severity of their symptoms should see their doctor for assessment. Counselling services are available through the Employee and Family Assistance Program at 725-5676. Information on SAD and other topics is available in the Resource Centre at Health and Counselling Services.

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