Now, to be clear, mental illness is not within my scope of practice and I’m not an expert in the matter. But, as a physiotherapist, I believe every health care clinician should educate themselves to better understand mental health issues and how they can affect our physical health. If you feel you are suffering from SAD, speak with your family physician, as there are treatments, such as light therapy and medication, which can help. In addition to these treatments, there are other methods to cope with the doldrums that arise this time of year.
Exercise and eat right. Yes, I know we have all heard this before but maybe, if we dive into why it is helpful, we might be motivated to stick to it. When we exercise at a moderate intensity, our bodies will naturally produce and release more serotonin, which will help to fight those winter blues. Exercising is not just about looking good or achieving a certain body image or weight. Exercising results in our bodies naturally releasing hormones that will make us FEEL better.
Getting active can be very difficult for someone who is suffering from SAD or caught up in an inactive lifestyle. The key is to determine what will motivate you to start.
The first thing is to set realistic goals. If you are completely inactive, start with just 5-10 minutes of walking outdoors, dancing to your favourite song, or playing charades with your family. Getting active does not have to mean joining a gym and running on a treadmill. Finding what works for you is key! Taking up a new activity, such as snowshoeing or ice-skating, is a great way to share activity with the whole family. If you need more motivation or need to schedule in activity as you would an appointment, I recommend joining a small local gym with fitness classes. Having a sense of community and being social while being active will help you stick to your goals.
by Saba Chishti, PT