Winter got you down? Your pharmacist may be able to help

12/21/2015

Few Canadians would disagree that it is easier to feel great in summer, when the sun shines and long days make it easy to get outside and enjoy nature. But if “winter blues” linger and make it difficult to cope with daily life, it may be something more serious than just the typical cold weather blahs.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the seasons. Most people with SAD begin to experience symptoms in the fall and start to feel better in the spring. They may experience some or all of the symptoms similar to depression.

Other common winter-onset SAD symptoms are irritability, tiredness, problems getting along with other people, hypersensitivity to rejection, oversleeping, a craving for high-carbohydrate foods and weight gain. People with SAD often feel a lack of motivation, and may eat more junk food or smoke more than usual in an attempt to find comfort.

The causes of SAD aren’t yet known, but researchers believe that circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock) as well as melatonin and serotonin levels play a role.

To help support your overall health in the winter months, your pharmacist may recommend vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is created naturally in the body when our skin is exposed to the sun, but in Northern Hemisphere countries we don’t get enough sunlight from October through April to support adequate production. Essential to many processes in the body, vitamin D enables the absorption of calcium by our bones and improves our immune system. Early research also links vitamin D levels with mood and cognitive function.

Pharmacists can also provide valuable advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle routine, which may be especially challenging during the winter months. Regular exercise can be an effective way to ease the symptoms of depression, and a nutrient-rich diet will ensure that your body has the building blocks it needs for optimum brain and body health.

Your pharmacist can also provide advice on the benefits of light therapy and the different appliances available.

    Read: Canadian pharmacy’s proactive approach creates better health outcomes

If your symptoms are severe, your pharmacist may suggest seeing your family doctor, who can recommend treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and/or antidepressant medication.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist if you’re feeling the winter blues and it has lasted more than a few days. He or she can help you decide whether vitamins or other supplements might be right for you, and can help you determine if your symptoms warrant a visit to your doctor.

Canadian winter got you down? These tips can help you thrive until spring arrives.

  • Give in to your carbohydrate craving, but make sure those carbs are healthy. Delicious, nutrient-dense soups and stews are good for your body and your mood.
     
  • Don’t forget the healing power of oxytocin and endorphins: hug someone you love and/or watch a funny movie to get an instant infusion of happy.
     
  • Get outside when you can. Even just going for a brisk walk to look at the Christmas lights will help elevate your mood and keep your body healthy.
     
  • When you can’t get outside, move your body indoors. Walk the mall, take the stairs or download a yoga app and do a class.

    Read: Can you get allergies in the winter?

 

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