Recovering From The Holidays

Recovering from the holidays

It is that time of the year again. The excitement of the holidays and celebrations come to an end.  We tuck away our holiday cheer, embark on New Year’s resolutions and are often left with a freezer full of leftovers and aspirations for a New Year and new beginnings. Our schedules are full of commitments, yet, most struggle to feel energized or able to “catch up” on rest, or to find the motivation that is required to fulfill our busy schedules. Some of these feelings and symptoms mirror depression and can be classified as “Seasonal Effective Disorder” also known as SAD. 

So, what is SAD?

SAD is a seasonal disorder which is associated to our limited sunlight intake and is most common in regions with diminished sunlight in the winter months. Limited sunlight intake disrupts our circadian rhythm and confuses our sleep and wake cycles, while also minimizing our serotonin levels. Serotonin is our “feel good” hormone that reduces depression and anxiety and helps us to maintain and regulate our bowel movements, libido, and sleep. Therefore, our limited intake of natural sunlight due to shortened days decreases our “feel good” hormones which can lead individuals to feel continuously tired or have low mood. People who experience SAD will often notice these behavioural and physiological changes every winter and symptoms may include: 

    Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite(cravings for carbohydrates)
  • Weight gain
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Avoidance
  • Tension/Stress
  • Loss of sexual interests and physical contact

Counselling outcomes

Working with a counsellor can provide individuals with many positive outcomes, but most importantly, the counsellor and client relationship is founded in unconditional positive regard, respect, and non-judgemental listening. Depending on individual needs, therapists can tailor intervention strategies to meet the unique and diversified experiences of each client. Although there are many benefits to counselling some beneficial outcomes include: developing healthy coping mechanisms, developing personal goals, overcoming past trauma, improving relationships, purging maladaptive habits, and having a non-judgemental sound board to work alongside you.

What can be done about it?  

Recommended interventions to treat seasonal effective disorder include light therapy, moderate exercises to raise your heart rate, muscle-building exercises, counselling, or melatonin to support biological sleep cycles, light therapy, scheduling outdoor activity during a lunch break, positioning office and home furniture near windows and natural light, and maintaining bedtime routines. 

Those at higher risk of developing SAD are women, adults under the age of 50, and those living in northern parts of the country. It is important to remember that nearly 1.5 million Canadians experience Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD) every winter and know that you are not alone. Reach out to friends, family, and your health care professionals for support.

Written By: Christine Roy-Mathieu

MACP Student Counsellor


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