Seasonal Affective Disorder (AKA Winter Blues)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (Aka winter Blues) 

With the rainy season returning to Vancouver as we get deeper into fall, many people are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD or the winter blues).

Lessening daylight as the year comes to an end can affect Vitamin D levels that we usually obtain from direct exposure to sunlight.  The combination of time change and shorter days can have a major impact on your daily rhythms and can cause some people to have a harder time making this adjustment.

SAD can be difficult and frustrating to navigate. Our moods and energy levels fluctuate with the seasons and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) understands these cycles in ways modern life does not. These days, you are expected to be active, productive and creative at all times of the year. There is no accommodation for a slow, quiet winter. We also have to take into account the effects of the recent years of working from home, social isolation, and quarantining. According to TCM, this conflict causes stress, which can result in SAD.

Traditional Acupuncture (TA) can provide relief of SAD symptoms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. In TCM, these symptoms are due to energetic imbalances of your Qi (energy/life force) and acupuncture can help regulate energy flow, prevent stagnation and restore balance; bringing relief both mentally and physically.

For example, one point that would be used to treat SAD is Yintang, located in between both eyebrows.  This point is known to stimulate the pineal gland, which responds to light and seasonal changes.  This is also a great point for self-acupressure to relieve stress and tension headaches. Apply gentle pressure or tapping to the point for 20-30 seconds, as often as needed throughout the day.

With Traditional Acupuncture, each patient is diagnosed holistically, taking into account both mental and physical symptoms.  A diagnosis is made based on the individual and addresses the root cause of their symptoms. The frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the severity of SAD symptoms and usually occurs one to two times per week for 3 to 4 weeks.  Traditional acupuncture works best as a cumulative therapy, with each treatment building on the last, so it is important to not have too much time in between treatments at the start.  After the initial set of appointments, a patient is then reassessed and can start having treatments on a maintenance basis; once every 6-8 weeks.

Some Traditional Chinese Medicine tips for the Autumn/Winter:

  • Practice quiet yin activities like restorative yoga, Tai Chi/Qi Gong, long walks, journaling.
  • Eat warm, slow-cooked stews and soups.
  • Limit cold drinks and raw vegetables.
  • Go outside and soak up the sunshine when weather permits.
  • Rebuild your energy with acupuncture to prepare for Spring.
  • Go to bed earlier and limit screen time after dinner.
  • Take advantage of extended health benefits before the year ends and consult a counsellor, a naturopath, or a physiotherapist.
TIP:  As the year comes to a close, make sure to take advantage of your extended health benefits as most plans provide coverage for acupuncture treatments with a licensed acupuncturist. Whether you’re seeking relief from pain, stress reduction, or overall wellness, this is the perfect time to check your coverage and schedule your acupuncture session.

By Yvonne Sui (Registered Acupuncturist, Treloar Physiotherapy Kerrisdale)