Doc Talk #34 – Winter blues



Christmas can be a time of joy but it can also take its toll on peoples’ mental health; whether it is loneliness, isolation or merely not living up up to the hype, at a time of year when expectations can be so high.

In this show Dr Dan and Jamieson explored seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and ways of tackling the winter blues.

The symptoms of winter seasonal affective disorder can include low mood, overeating (including binging on carbohydrate rich foods), low energy and sleeping more than usual.

  • Even if it’s cold outside, a daily outdoors walk can significantly improve mental  health and sense of wellbeing – just make sure you wrap up well and dress for the elements!
  • Taking up a winter sport (snowshoeing, cross-country skiing) might also help you to look forward to the winter rather than dreading it!
  • Dawn stimulation therapy involves waking up to a light each day which slowly increases in intensity to mimic the rising sun
  • Lightbox therapy uses a lightbox with at least 10,000 lux and sitting in front of it for 20-30 minutes each morning
  • Psychological treatments including cognitive behavioural therapy can also help combat malaise at this time of year
  • In more serious cases, medication (the same kind we use to treat depression) can also be helpful to get you through the winter


If you need help now, then there are a number of sources of support:

  • The Distress Line can help if you are feeling down, depressed, suicidal or just overwhelmed, available 24/7 ☎ 1-800-232-7288
  • Alberta Health Link can also connect you with appropriate supports ☎ 811
  • The Mental Health Hotline ☎ 1-877-303-2642 which is a confidential, anonymous service
  • Locally, the Mental Health Unit can be contacted on ☎ 780-632-2714 (they are located at the health unit building)
  • The emergency department is always available 24/7 for mental health crises


Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy Christmas from Doc Talk. We’ll be back in the New Year.

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