Countering the Canadian Winter Blues

January is always the worst month for me ! I’m from the south of France I need sun to be 100% myself. Likely February is coming with my birthday ! I have to be honest in Canada the winter is longer and more intense. Who can better talk about the winter mood that a quebecois girl ? Gaby is one of my amazing volunteer with AperoChic. Today she is the chief on my blog !

By: Gabrielle P, M.Sc, Travailleuse Sociale/Social Worker

With our four seasons country that are the envy of many, also comes the ‘blues’ or as others call it, seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder . Although the latter two diagnostics do not affect the majority of the population, many people, however, may feel a little ‘depressed ‘, hence the term ‘having the blues’ , a shortened form of ‘to have the Blues Devils ‘ which means being  ‘down in the dumps’ .

Even though we’re not all suffering from winter depression or even feeling depressed, we can
sometimes feel more tired or irritable when the days get shorter. It is interesting to know that these symptoms have nothing to do with the season itself but rather the lack of light.

This time of year can indeed be painful for many of us so I’ve put together a few tips to take care of yourself in this season to enjoy it to the fullest!

With all this notion of well-being come the basics, that is to say, the sleep, healthy eating and some physical activity! But what does this mean exactly?

Every adult needs an average of 6 to 8 hours of sleep per day but it can in fact vary between 3 and 12 hours a day! It also depends on your schedule time, your occupation, etc. Indeed, nightshift workers see their circadian rhythm changed because of their schedules. The number of hours is therefore not the most important element to get a good night sleep. However, you want to trust your body and determine the number of time that is convenient for you to get through your day without feeling too much fatigue. This is why it’s not always easy to figure out exactly when to sleep and how much sleep we need since we all have different circadian rhythms. The good news is that App Store has a free application called ‘Sleep Meister ‘ that allows you to calculate your sleep cycle and wake you up when you are in a lighter sleep phase for a smoother awakening!

When it comes to sleep quality, try to eliminate the sources that could be disruptive to the process.
For instance, try turning off electronic devices at least one to two hours before bedtime to decrease
hyper stimulation of your brain and to help you feel more relax, make sure your room is quite dark
and there is not too much background noise. Otherwise, go for earplugs to soothe you at bedtime.
Also try to avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine since they are known to excite and disturb
sleep. For coffee ‘addicts’ like me, try alternatives like decaf or tea after your lunch (or breakfast for
the French readers here!).

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The nutrition now. My goal here is not to give you a crash course on healthy eating, since it could take an entire book! What is important to remember is to promote balanced meals and to build on
superfoods, especially when it is difficult to get all of the necessary vitamins our body needs! These
so-called superfoods are actually natural foods filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The perfect blend! These superfoods give you energy to fight the seasonal ‘blues’, while increasing your immune system and may even save you from the flu! These foods include blueberries, beets, fish, nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate with at least 65% of pure cacao (to the delight of many!), green tea and red wine (with moderation, meaning one glass per day). You obviously don’t want to neglect other health foods but keep these foods in mind and promote them when you can. Then, it can also be interesting for some to take multivitamin to avoid any deficiencies.

Finally, let’s get serious and talk about what we dread the most in winter. Yes, you may have guessed, I’m talking about physical exercise! Again, everyone has their preferences when it comes to physical activities, but it is important to ensure a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of low to moderate activity per day. For people who work while sitting all day, these advices are worth even more! Try taking a walk during your breaks, get up as much as possible to grab a glass of water, go to the bathroom, take the stairs, etc. To counter the winter blues, make sure to enjoy the fresh air when the sun is shining at his fullest! Yes, it’s cold, I know but dress yourself warm and go out : your body needs natural light! Then, take the opportunity to explore the attractions of the city like the outdoor skating at Harbourfront Centre, the cross-country hiking through High Park, jogging in groups or winter sliding at Riverdale Park rather than the movies!

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As a social worker, I want to give a little warning on more severe symptoms that could be signs of a more serious health condition. If you experience hypersomnia or insomnia, sadness or irritability, lack of concentration, loss of general interest, a change in appetite and/or dark or suicidal thoughts it is best to consult a health care professional to get a clear diagnosis and treatment tailored to your situation.

I hope that these tips will help you to feel in great shape for the rest of this season, as long as the
groundhog does not see his shadow this year!

Did you like this post ? What are your tips to be okay during the winter ?

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