Leaves change colour, days get shorter, the weather becomes dreary, and suddenly we are transported into colder months once again. While some take this time as an opportunity to show off their Fall wardrobe, sip Pumpkin Spice Lattes and go apple picking, others may find that they experience a shift in their mental state.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, is a type of depression that affects people during the fall and winter seasons. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, or CAMH, symptoms might include a lack of energy, interest, or motivation, changes in appetite or sleep schedule, low self esteem, loss of positivity, and sadness. Dr. Robert Levitan, who works at CAMH, states that 12-20% of Canadians will experience a severe to mild form of this condition, while 25-35% will have the “winter blues,” a term used when someone experiences some symptoms of SAD, but does not actually have depression.
Light therapy is commonly used to combat SAD and seasonal mood changes in general. While being exposed to natural light can help to reverse some symptoms of SAD, this is not always an option, given the lack of sunlight in fall and winter. An alternative can be purchasing a light therapy lamp or “light box.” Some find that using these devices in the morning, for instance, having the box on while eating breakfast, greatly improves their energy level and mood throughout the day.
If you start noticing symptoms of SAD in your life, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to your parents, a friend, your guidance counsellor or doctor to tell them what you are going through and get treatment, if needed. Also, be sure to take time for yourself, no matter what, in whatever form suits you. This may include meditating, spending time with someone you love, or just taking a break from school work and relaxing. After all, there is truly nothing better than being snuggled in a blanket with a warm drink while watching Netflix, especially during these colder months.