close up blow snow winter

Coping with mental illness and maintaining strong mental health is difficult enough without the added obstacle of dark, cold, short winter days. The effects of our drastically changing weather and environment can be a serious strain on our energy levels, stress, appetite, and motivation. We’re here to provide you with a few different mental health resources and strategies so that you can not only survive but thrive through these upcoming Canadian winter months!

on couch winter eyes closed depressed

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Have you ever felt drastically impacted by the change in seasons? Seasonal Affective Disorder, unironically referred to as SAD, is a form of depression that fluctuates in relation to the change in seasons. Although SAD is commonly experienced in the fall and winter months, it can also affect people during the spring and summer. Common SAD symptoms across the winter months include oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, tiredness, and low energy. It has also been known to create feelings of sluggishness, agitation, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, and having difficulty concentrating.

Let’s get into some different resources and strategies that you can access remotely this winter, whether you’re experiencing mental illness or simply maintaining and strengthening your mental health!

snowshoe winter quebec

Teachers Life Resources

Teachers Life offers an amazing variety of resources and platforms that are personalized to your mental and physical health, as well as other wellness goals.

  • The Teachers Life Virtual Wellness Program (powered by Virgin Pulse) – Get ready to be the best you with tools including healthy tips, support living out and reaching your goals, and a secure and private wellness experience. Virgin Pulse is here to help you improve your mental health, get in shape, or to just live healthier in general.
  • FeelingBetterNow – Feeling Better Now is an innovative and award-winning mental health management program, available 24/7 online and on mobile devices for Teachers Life Long-Term Disability Members.
  • Ready for Life – Ready for life is a unique mental health platform that offers a wide range of mental health resources, including in-depth information and self-evaluation quizzes.

meditate cottage winter

Apps for Mental Health

There’s also a great selection of mental health apps that you can download onto your device and have with you wherever you go!

  • CBT-i Coach – This app will guide you through the process of learning about sleep, developing positive sleep routines, and improving your sleep environments.
  • Feelmo – Find relief from anxiety, stress, and depression with Feelmo’s CBT, DBT, and ACT-inspired self-help process, developed in collaboration with leading therapists.
  • Wysa – Talking to Wysa is empathetic, helpful, and will never judge. It’s used by more than a million people from all walks of life, is backed by research and is completely anonymous.
  • Bloom: CBT Therapy & Self-Care – Bloom uses CBT, interactive video classes, journaling and mindfulness exercises to help you improve your mental well-being, boost your mood and cultivate more joy in your life.
  • Headspace – Headspace is your guide to mindfulness for your everyday life. Learn meditation and mindfulness skills from world-class experts, choose from hundreds of guided meditations, and build your practice your way.

purple yoga mat blue aromatherapy

Other Strategies

Here are a few more healthy habits, ideas, and tools that can help support and strengthen your mental health throughout the winter.

  • Phototherapy (Light therapy) – This treatment uses LED light to mimic sunlight through a small light box (similar to a lamp) that you can have conveniently in your home. When used at the right time of day, it can also help improve sleep disorders by re-aligning your circadian rhythm or “internal clock”.
  • Aromatherapy – This tool diffuses essential oils into the air to create and calming and relaxing therapeutic effect. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder symptoms have all been found to decrease with aromatherapy. Plus, it makes your space smell nice for all to enjoy!
  • Prioritize Social Activities – It’s hard to thrive in any realm of life, including work, if our social needs aren’t being met. Making time to do activities you love with your friends and family can not only help to bring joy into your days, but it can also keep you motivated.
  • Get Moving – Now more than ever, it’s time to get those endorphins flowing. Of course it’s more comfortable to cozy up on the couch with a blanket on a cold winter day. But dedicating just a bit of your time each day to movement or activity can actually help decrease those feelings of exhaustion, sluggishness and irritability. P.S. Our Virtual Wellness Program (powered by Virgin Pulse) is an amazing resource to help stay motivated and on track with your goals.
  • Journal – Both talking about and writing down your thoughts can help decrease stress and boost your mood. You can describe your day, your mood, what you’re grateful for, a goal, reflect on the past, or just let your mind run free! Some of the apps listed above also include great virtual journaling opportunities.
  • Take a Break – Winter can be long, dark and tiring. If you can, try stepping out of your routine and giving yourself time for rest, relaxation and fun.
  • Vitamin D – Deficiencies and lower levels of Vitamin D in the winter are believed to be in connection with SAD and depressive symptoms, as well as a lower mood overall. Taking supplements through vitamins or incorporating it into your diet through foods such as salmon, oatmeal and eggs may help supplement the lack of sunlight exposure throughout the season.

We hope that this blog provided you with some different tools, resources and strategies to prepare for the upcoming winter months. Remember that you are not alone, and that the bright, warm days aren’t too far away – you’ve got this!

Please note that although these coping mechanisms and resources can be helpful, it’s important to see your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms continuously. Crisis resources are also available 24/7: Canadian Suicide Prevention Service (833-456-4566); Emergency Medical Service (911).