Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder

It proved to be the cloudiest November since 2014, with an average overcast of 88%, earning us the moniker ‘Grayer Toronto Area’. During a generally festive December, truly sunny days were rarely seen (the average overcast for that month is over 60%), combined with the shortest days of the year.

Some people have the capacity to ‘weather’ the lack of sunshine, applying their minds to the positive things in life, ready and able to look on the ‘bright side’.

But for others, the seemingly constant absence of sunlight can be of genuine concern, and that is not merely a matter of attitude. Its roots have been recognized by way of clinical research and objective scientific diagnosis.

What in the past was casually termed the ‘winter blues’ now has a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or ‘SAD’, a condition that exhibits many of the symptoms of depression: low energy, disruption of sleep patterns, irritability, appetite changes, weight gain, heaviness in arms and legs, and a chronic despondency.

Early clinical findings determined that SAD is not preventable, and that women and young adults are particularly susceptible. Clinical studies also have seen the acceptance of certain treatments as effective at offsetting the symptoms: light therapy, anti-depressant medications, intake of Vitamin D, counselling, and lifestyle modification (including exercise). In particular, those therapies involving light and Vitamin D are direct responses to the effect of the absence of natural sunlight.

Recognize the symptoms and talk to your doctor. If you are affected by SAD, some of the actions you may take to modify your lifestyle include: brightening your surroundings (for example, letting light into your workplace and at home); going outdoors, especially when the sun shines; engaging in exercise (including a long walk); and getting social (friends, groups, events).

Getting social. On that score, few activities are more social than volunteering, because the best and most effective volunteering involves people teaming up to help others in our communities. Is there a better cure for the blues than to meet with fellow volunteers, and enjoy the collective and individual satisfaction of making a difference, perhaps even for someone who is trying to cope with SAD?

Volunteer MBC is online 24/7 with opportunities in Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon, so it’s easy to volunteer and make winter fly by. This includes those who will create a volunteer profile for the first time through Volunteer MBC, and no less importantly, our existing volunteers who are always invited to update their searches to gain new opportunities and enjoy exceptional, rewarding experiences.

There are 72 days until spring, so let’s brighten these by getting social and keeping busy by engaging in volunteering!