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Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

ways to beat the winter blahs

Let’s face it, the holiday season can be overwhelming. As we head into January this can also be a time where people reach an emotional low. In fact, Blue Monday has become an actual day for some people. (Then again, so has National Peanut Butter Day and National Talk Show Host Day, so this designation should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Maybe it is the long days of winter keeping us indoors. Maybe it is because a reflection of the previous year unlocked sadness or fears of the year ahead. The reasons for a mid-winter depression are potentially endless. But if you are feeling down in January, you are not alone, according to experts.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that in any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness. And, by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, one in two people will have experienced mental illness. CMHA encourages people to seek help early, noting that early intervention greatly increases the likelihood of recovery.

So, what can be done when Jan. 15 and so-called Blue Monday rolls around? (And it should be noted that the history of the day goes back to the travel agency industry attempting to sell winter vacations a few years back.)

“One important tool is vitamin D,” said Sean Miller, partnership for recovery co-ordinator at Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba and Winnipeg. “Research clearly shows the benefits of this powerful vitamin for improving body and thereby brain health. Our bodies synthesize this nutrient through exposure to the sun.”

Of course the dark winter months make it tough for Canadians to get much sun with many workers keeping regular business hours.

“Because low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, it may be beneficial to add vitamin D through your diet, light therapy, or a supplement,” said Miller. “If taking a supplement, choose the “D3” version and consume with a fatty meal. Be sure to speak with your doctor before starting a nutritional supplement program.”

But how about during the workday? Many people spend the majority of their waking hours at their job.

“Using break times is one effective way to improve overall mental health and boost productivity,” said Stacey Krueger, community educator at CMHA Manitoba and Winnipeg. “Oftentimes, busy schedules and looming deadlines prevent us from taking breaks when we need them most. A short time away, doing something we enjoy, helps to reduce stress and emotional exhaustion, while providing a fresh focus and the necessary energy to accomplish tasks.”

What could that consist of? “Stretching, walking, listening to music, and reading or watching something funny are all ways to help lighten the load,” said Krueger.

And after a long day of work, the experts say that sleep is one of the most important things you can do to reward your body.

“Getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep can help make a world of difference,” said Miller. “Some researchers claim that the health benefits of sleeping are equivalent to those of eating.”

CMHA offers these tips for helping you get to sleep:

  • Darken your room. Melatonin release only happens in low light/dark conditions. Blue light from mobile devices, TVs, etc. inhibits this process. (When daylight fades, our bodies release melatonin, a natural sleep aid/hormone with powerful antioxidant properties.)
  • Avoid eating/drinking two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule.
  • Engage in moderate to rigorous exercise. If you rarely feel well rested talk to your healthcare provider about natural and medicinal support.

All of this is by no means clinical advice or a surefire guarantee to get you out of a funk. If low mood or thoughts of suicide persist it is always recommended that you consult a physician or other medical expert immediately.

For Bison Transport employees: Remember that LifeWorks is our Employee and Family Assistance Program. There are many resources available to Bison staff and their dependents and it is free of charge. For more information visit www.lifeworks.com or login to The Herd for details.

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