If you’re like a lot of Canadians, the months between November and March might be some of the hardest. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, is a mood disorder that disproportionately affects individuals living in polar regions. And, while you don’t see any polar bears running around Calgary, we still qualify as a polar region when it comes to SAD, and that means many Calgarians (likely over 5% or 1 in 20) suffer from symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, reduced labido, and depression during these winter months. So what’s happening?
Doctors aren’t sure, but the best guess we have presently is that symptoms are caused by low vitamin D levels and the absence of sunshine. But, even if these aren’t the cause, they’re certainly part of finding the solution. Here are two easy things you can do to help combat winter depression.
Start Taking Vitamin D.
Humans aren’t able to absorb enough vitamin D from just diet. During the summer months, the vast majority of our vitamin D comes from sunshine, but during the winter months it can be hard or even impossible to get enough sunlight. This is because the angle that light hits Canada during the winter, makes it difficult to absorb ultraviolet B light even if you spend all day outside. Because of this, many Canadians need to find a different source of vitamin D such as a daily supplement.
But before you start taking vitamin D, you may want to get a blood test from your doctor to confirm that you need it. It’s pretty difficult to overdose on this vitamin — but it is possible, so while you’d likely be alright either way, it’s always best to check.
Use a Sun Lamp.
Because SAD is so common (further north it can be as prevalent as 1 in 10), sun lamps have become increasingly popular, and you can now purchase one pretty easily using amazon. Sun lamps, unlike regular lamps, are created to mimic normal sunlight. This means they produce a larger spectrum of light including ultraviolet B, so Canadians can use these lamps to meet their sunshine quota.
While we may not know what causes SAD, many people have benefited from using vitamin D and sun lamps. You can also try to get outside for a walk, but when you’re bundled up with mitts and a scarf, you won’t have much bare skin available to absorb light anyways.
With a lamp and supplement, many people find that their energy levels return to normal, and they feel better. If you’re suffering from winter depression, our team at Health Risk hopes that you’ll start feeling better soon.