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Blue Monday: Navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as an Immigrant in Canada


Black woman comforting a Black girl

Blue Monday, coined as the most depressing day of the year, casts a shadow over many Canadians, particularly those without family support, such as immigrants. For immigrants facing the cold, dark winter without the anchor of family, surviving Blue Monday and the broader challenges of SAD requires understanding, coping mechanisms, and community support.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that occurs cyclically, typically during the fall and winter months when daylight diminishes. The change in sunlight exposure disrupts the biological clock, affecting sleep-wake patterns and neurotransmitter functions. Immigrants, especially those farther from the equator like in Canada, may be more susceptible to the impact of reduced sunlight. (Yahoo Life, 2024)


Signs and Symptoms of SAD

  1. Mood Changes: Individuals with SAD may experience feelings of hopelessness and despair, impacting their overall mood and outlook on life.

  2. Social Withdrawal: SAD can lead to withdrawal from social activities and relationships. A desire to isolate oneself is a bad sign.

  3. Sleep Disturbances: Disruptions in sleep patterns, such as oversleeping or insomnia, are common symptoms of SAD.

  4. Appetite Changes: Increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates, can be a sign of SAD. This can also contribute to potential weight gain.

  5. Low Energy and Apathy: Individuals may feel fatigued, lack energy, and exhibit apathy towards activities they once enjoyed.



Survival Tips for Immigrants without Family Support

  1. Community Connection: Actively engage with local immigrant communities, support groups, or cultural organizations. Shared experiences foster understanding and provide a sense of belonging.

  2. Seek Professional Help: If symptoms persist or worsen, seek help from mental health professionals. Therapy, counselling, or medication may be recommended based on the severity of symptoms.

  3. Explore Light Therapy: Given the reduced exposure to natural sunlight, consider light therapy. Lightboxes emitting 10,000 lux can be effective in alleviating symptoms. Daily exposure, especially in the morning, can mimic natural sunlight.

  4. Stay Active: Combat lethargy by incorporating regular exercise into your routine. Physical activity is known to improve mood and boost energy levels.

  5. Cultivate a Support System: Develop a network of friends, colleagues, or neighbours who can offer support. Building meaningful connections that provide a safety net during challenging times.

  6. Mindful Eating: Be conscious of dietary choices, aiming for a balanced and nutritious diet. Foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish or fortified dairy products, may contribute to mood management.

  7. Create a Daily Routine: Establishing a consistent daily routine can provide structure and stability. This includes setting aside time for work, self-care, and leisure activities.

  8. Explore Cultural Resources: Connect with cultural resources and events in the community. Embracing cultural practices and celebrations can offer a sense of familiarity and comfort.


Surviving Blue Monday and the broader challenges of Seasonal Affective Disorder for immigrants without family support in Canada is demanding and calls for a proactive approach for immigrants who live in Canada without families and those who can provide support to alleviate their need for connection. At Immigrants Champions of Canada, we urge, service providers, neighbours and friends of Immigrants who live alone in Canada to not, assume that this community is safe but instead reach out, and surprise them with visits and activity plans during this difficult season.


References

Yahoo Life 2024.

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