By Kallandra Weatherbee
When winter hits and the days get shorter, it can bring about what’s known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Dealing with SAD during a pandemic that limits social interactions has many people dealing with increased tension and anxiety. As well, day to day changes from the normal may cause their symptoms of depression to worsen.
Dr. Tanya Spencer, Lead & Clinical Psychologist, Student Counselling and Chaplaincy at NAIT said this period of seasonal depression can start from the beginning of fall and well into spring and for some into summer.
Spencer says SAD is caused by the lack of light during the winter months.
“It’s a cousin of garden variety depression but the idea is that the root of it is because some of us are more vulnerable to the lack of light that happens in the winter time,” said Spencer.
Spencer says SAD can make people feel down and unmotivated.
“When you talk to people who experience it a lot of feelings go down. Symptoms can hugely overlap with garden variety depression,” said Spencer.
With more people working from home and the government’s push to get people outside and active, Spencer believes something simple like a walk during a break could be helping people with SAD.
“It may not have an effect on how many people are experiencing SAD but one of the best treatments for any sort of depression is a five or ten minute walk everyday. So getting out and feeling like you have a purpose to things,” said Spencer.
Another thing that is different this year is the weather. Edmonton’s winter so far has been mild compared to past years which gives more opportunities to get outside.
“Anyone who has ever spent any time in Canada knows it’s no fun when it’s cold. Certainly, being cooped up and when a cold snap that lasts for a month it’s natural for people to feel down. The experience of depression is completely subjective,” said Spencer.
Other than taking daily walks Spencer also recommends trying a variety of different methods to see what works for you.
“There’s all the conventional treatments for depression that should be effective, there’s light therapy. My philosophy is if it feels good, do it,” said Spencer.