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    Eh Kasi, Pinoy!


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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante  

Grey skies and the link to mood

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante 

Although the Prairie Provinces are known to have open and sunny skies, we also get our fair share of grey and dreary weather. For some newcomers, the novelty of seeing snow for the first time can quickly give way to shock when they experience their first season of fall and winter. It can be a huge adjustment, especially when you are used to warmer temperatures all year round.

Even native Canadians can be affected by seasonal changes and experience some level of depression, especially once the fall begins and the daylight hours gets shorter. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, some common symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness and loss
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Feelings of extreme impatience, irritability, or a short temper
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyed activities
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, like insomnia
  • Reduced ability to think clearly or make decisions
  • Difficulties in concentrating or with short-term memory loss
  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Noticeable lack of motivation
  • Anxiety and restlessness, sometimes leading to panic attacks
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Constipation or other intestinal problems
  • Frequent headaches
  • Loss of interest in maintaining a good appearance and hygiene
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons where symptoms most likely begin in the fall and continue throughout the winter months. In addition to the symptoms above, those related to SAD can include:

  • Irritability
  • Problems getting along with people
  • Oversleeping
  • Heaviness in the arms and/or legs
  • Appetite changes, especially for foods high in carbohydrates
  •  Weight gain

If you are experiencing five or more of these symptoms and have been for at least two weeks, it is time to contact your doctor or other health professional. Be prepared to list all of the symptoms you have noticed, any patterns of occurrence, any other physical or mental health problems, any life changes or major situational stressors, as well as any medications, vitamins or supplements you are taking. Some effective treatments for SAD can include light therapy or phototherapy where you stay in close proximity to a special light therapy box. This exposure to bright light can mimic outdoor light and change the brain chemicals linked to mood. Some doctors prescribe certain anti-depressant medications. Psychotherapy can also help by learning to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviours. Counselling can be a way to explore healthier ways of coping and managing stress. Some examples of ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle include:

  • Regular exercise such as going for walks, bike rides or yoga
  • Prayer and meditation
  • Volunteer work
  • Talking to friends and family and spending time with them
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Limiting your time with technology such as watching TV, being on the Internet and social media, and texting. These behaviours can take away valuable time with loved ones
  • Getting rid of addictions such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, gambling, and excessive shopping
  • Counting our blessings every day: Start a gratitude journal, and say “thank you” and “I love you” to family and friends

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.