Ottawa Seasonal Counselling

Befriending Winter and Beating the “Winter Blues”

There’s a reason your Facebook homepage might be showing more pictures of sunny beaches with luxurious white sands like the one above – it is that time of year where many Ottawa residents are dreaming of summer. Yet, not everyone is able to take a week off to the sunny south, and for many, the winter “blues” are beginning to set in. A recent weather network survey of Canadians indicated that 43 % were feeling their mood dip, and 71 % reporting noticeably less energy. And for those of us in Ontario, the stats are even higher, as 54 % indicated that they were feeling low.

While feeling less energy and more sadness and/or indifference during the winter is common, our tasks and responsibilities often do not lessen along with it. Rather, with the lack of motivation it can feel like the “to-do” list is getting larger with every week. And for many people here in Ottawa, the winter blues can become much more serious, developing into seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This means that the typical symptoms of the winter blues, namely sleeping more, eating more, a lack of motivation for usual activities, and social withdrawal, increase to the point of deeply interfering with one’s life.

At that point, it is important to seek out professional help, both from your medical doctor and a therapist who specializes in depression. You can browse Capital Choice Counselling Group’s therapists here. However, if your symptoms are less severe, there are many things you can do to help endure, and maybe even enjoy, the winter season.

First off, don’t be too hard on yourself if you are taking an extra nap here and there. Feeling ashamed of oneself isn’t a great motivator, and besides, there is wisdom in listening to your body if you are feeling sick and need rest (it’s cold season too!). The weather network survey stated that 53 % of Canadians coped by cuddling on the couch—great! Touch has wonderful benefits for overall stress levels, i.e. lowering cortisol. Making sure that your work and home space is well lit is really important too, and if needed, ask your doctor about light therapy and how that might help.

The above is perhaps how you can endure winter, but if you want to enjoy it, it can take a shift in perspective:

• Begin by noticing all the positive aspects of winter: do you like the way ice forms on the trees, or the beauty of untouched snow?

• Identify any particular winter activities that you enjoy – this has the added benefit of increasing exercise, which also helps mood.

• Make sure your prepared; nothing helps to make a friend out of winter more when you have a good warm jacket, boots, mitts, hat, and scarf. The little extra time and money you take, can mean that you are able to be outside, getting that fresh air and exercise longer.

• Indoor classes can also be a great alternative—and if your gyms have windows you can enjoy the winter view from there!

Sometimes we need a little inspiration to make the shift from winter being an enemy to being a friend — this Nike commercial seems to capture the feeling nicely:


Written by: Erika DeSchiffart, psychotherapist with Capital Choice Counselling Group.