Winter depression

Light sources are available in a variety of strengths (usually from 2,500 to 10,000 lux) and include fluorescent light boxes, desktop lamps and lamp visors. White fluorescent light is thought to be safer than ultraviolet light (which is used in some tanning beds). Possible side effects include headaches, eye strain, and nausea. For some people, it may take 2 – 4 weeks for relief of symptoms once beginning light therapy.

Most light boxes cost between $250 and $500 and are not covered by all insurance plans. Consult your doctor for more information if you’re thinking of buying a light box. Be sure to look for one that is approved by CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and has a filter to block any harmful ultraviolet light.

Antidepressant medication may be prescribed in combination with light therapy, or as an alternative if it isn’t working. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 70 per cent of people taking antidepressants have decreased symptoms of SAD, and about half experience remission while taking medication.

Examples of antidepressants used in the treatment of SAD include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Psychotherapy can be used to help modify negative thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to SAD symptoms. Therapy is also used to help manage symptoms and prevent recurring episodes of depression.

Coping strategies*
Some lifestyle changes can also help you cope with winter depression.

• Bring more light into your home. Open blinds, add skylights and trim tree branches that block sunlight.

• Get outside. Walk outdoors on sunny days, even during winter. Outdoor light, even when the sky is overcast, is often brighter than light boxes.

• Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve fatigue, stress and anxiety. Being more fit can also do wonders for your mood and make you feel better about yourself.

• Find ways to relax. Learn techniques such as meditation or yoga to better manage stress.

• Get away. If possible, escape winter by taking a vacation in a warm, sunny location.

(*Source: The Mayo Clinic)


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