Holiday season has just begun, and there are still a few months of winter left for us to weather (pardon the pun). Unfortunately, while we might be great at dealing with cold weather, our position up north leaves us particularly vulnerable to a dangerous side effect of the winter blues – seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In Calgary, our daily amount of sun changes significantly in the winter months. In July, we average about 10 hours of sun each day. This drops down to a low two hours and 56 minutes in December. According to Sarah Hewitt, an associate professor at Mount Royal University, in her essay titled Seasonal Affective Disorder and Circadian Rhythms: Do You Get the Wintertime Blues?, “SAD is most prevalent (affecting 2 to 5 per cent of the population) in places where the change in day length from summer to winter is most pronounced.”
If you’re concerned that SAD is affecting your melatonin levels adversely, you should watch out for traditional symptoms of depression as well as increased fatigue, social withdrawal, and increased appetite. If you’re experiencing a number of these symptoms in concert, please see your doctor as SAD can be a serious condition for many sufferers.
However, even if the winter has you feeling slightly blue, it’s important to focus on your own self care. After all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be incredibly rewarding to take some time to focus on your on mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being.
Here are some suggestions for self care during these long, cold winter days.
One of the best ways to fight off depression and ensure your getting your daily dose of sunshine is to go for a walk or run outside. The increased endorphins paired with Vitamin D will help with both your mood and energy levels. You’ll have to bundle up, but it’ll be worth the beautiful views – so many of the city’s parks are even more beautiful when blanketed with fresh snow. The view along the RiverWalk was especially beautiful this past week – and virtually empty aside from a few brave joggers.
Get plenty of rest.
A major cause of SAD is the disruption of circadian rhythms. Try to keep a consistent bedtime this time of year. It might be a nice excuse to stay in for a night. If you’re looking for a quiet activity at home, the Calgary Public Library has dropped their member fees – so a night in with a book would not only be relaxing, but frugal! Another great idea is getting caught up on some of the nominees before the Oscars in February, nothing wrong with having a Netflix night.
There’s nothing like spoiling yourself a little bit to feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day. Two of the biggest annoyances of winter in Calgary are the constant dry skin, and the increased appetite – it takes a lot of energy to shovel a front walk.
If a new cold front rolls in, I recommend “Rub It In, Why Don’t Ya” moisturizer from Calgary-based Lowen’s Skin Care. The irony of the name will feel almost as good as the coconut oil-based, cruelty free formula. The company is one of the member’s of REAP Business Association, an awesome local group that supports sustainable businesses in Calgary.
Of course, keeping your skin hydrated always starts from within. After drinking lots of water, think about ending your day with some decadent hot chocolate (disclaimer: this probably won’t actually help your skin stay glowing, but it will taste delicious). Starting in February, every hot chocolate purchased at a location participating in the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest will go towards supporting Meals On Wheels. It’s a treat for yourself, while paying it forward to treat others.