How to prevent seasonal affective disorder

Specially designed lightbox, healthy eating workshops can help

How to prevent seasonal affective disorder
The winter blues can affect a person's health and well-being, enjoyment of life, and how they do their jobs.”

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression in which mood tends to be affected by the weather and time of the year. Symptoms of the disorder normally appear during fall and winter, and people struggling with SAD experience these symptoms for several months.

People with the disorder usually experience being in a sad mood for several months, sleep and eat more, crave carbohydrates and gain weight. Women are four times more likely to experience SAD than men, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Those suffering from SAD will experience much more severe symptoms of mood swings that interfere with their ability to work and relate well to others. Though the symptoms of SAD are generally less severe than those of major depression, it must be dealt with just the same.

According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), employees with SAD may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • decreased interest
  • decreased productivity
  • avoidance of social situations
  • more incidents/injuries
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • making excuses for missed deadlines or poor work.

Here are some ways that employers can help their workers who may be struggling with SAD, based on tips from CAMH and WSPS:

Take mental health first aid lessons
Employers, managers, supervisors and employees who have taken Mental Health First Aid training have an advantage; they can more easily recognize when a person is in a state of SAD. They will also know the initial first aid steps that can help the said employee.

Install a specially designed lightbox
With limited access to the sun during the fall and winter seasons, people experiencing SAD can greatly benefit from at least 30 minutes of exposure per day under a specially designed lightbox. This can provide relief to approximately 65 per cent of people diagnosed with SAD. Light therapy is thought to correct the disturbance of circadian rhythms during the fall and winter months.

Offer yoga sessions
Many people use yoga therapy to manage mental and emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Doing yoga helps relax the mind, reinvigorate the body and, overall, help improve a person's wellness. And it may be able to help address SAD.

Offer mindfulness and meditation workshops
If your employees are not up to the task of doing the yoga poses, a simpler way to help them get out of their seasonal depression is through mindfulness and meditation workshops. Tap into the services of freelance mindfulness teachers, or even hire them for a more regular scheduling of mindfulness sessions.

Introduce healthy eating workshops
Poor eating habits normally come with depression. And the poorer a person’s diet, the harder it would be for them to get moving, keeping them in their current state. With poor diet, people with SAD may be in for tougher times.

"The winter blues can affect a person's health and well-being, enjoyment of life, and how they do their jobs," said WSPS mental health consultant Marie de Boyrie. "Workplaces can make a difference by putting coping mechanisms and skills into the hands of your employees."