With winter here and the daylight lasting no longer than 9 to 10 hours, many Canadians are in the midst of a struggle. The change in light and temperature can wreak havoc on mood and sleep, causing a ripple effect lasting well into our day-to-day lives. Furthermore, up to 15% of Canadians will experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) at some point during their lifetime. That equates to about 5.7 million Canadians who may be coping with this, even if you can’t see the effect from the outside.
Some of the more common symptoms include lack of energy, trouble with motivation, feeling sluggish and a sense of hopelessness. There may even be increase feelings of anxiety, which make it hard to unwind after a day of work. This leads to increased feelings of stress, and many may find it difficult to manage all the moving parts of their daily lives. We know some Canadians have found a way to find light at the end of the tunnel – known as ‘snowbirds’, these individuals often flee during the cooler weather, finding warmth in more southern parts of the world. While it’s estimated there are over one million travelers, what are the rest of us to do?
There are other ways to combat the January blues without owning a time-share in Florida!
The first includes taking advantage of programs like Bell Let’s Talk, a campaign that seeks to raise awareness and combat stigma around mental health. Through partnerships with organizations like Kids Help Phone, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, they have supported thousands of our friends and neighbours. This includes our fellow humans in crises, with their distress lines answering the call for almost 2.5 million Canadians. This initiative serves as a powerful reminder that humans are social creatures. By normalizing the conversation around mental health and treating it the same as physical health, we foster and nurture a safe space for all.
If you ever find yourself in an emergency, call 911.
Now that you have identified some social support systems, including specific friends and family, work on building strong foundations of health. This includes getting sufficient amounts of sleep, including regular movement in your day, eating a robust diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and connecting with nature.
When it comes to catching some zzz’s, much like the bank charges interest, so too does your body. If you skip out on regular sleep, then your body enters a sort of debt that can put you at an increased risk of chronic health conditions, weaken your immune system and spike levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. You can also work with a licensed healthcare professional to identify ways to support sleep hygiene including bedtime routines like limiting screens, exposure to blue light, caffeine intake and more.
While we may place each foundation into its own silo, consider ways to bridge some of these foundations which is at the heart of green exercise. While being out in nature and using movement as medicine both have benefits on their own, research shows that people who exercise outdoors are more motivated to stick to it! Just five minutes in the woods can boost your self-esteem and mood!
Despite doing ‘everything right’ when it comes to supporting a low-stress state, it still flares up time and again. With its unique combination of passion flower, lemon balm and zinc, consider keeping Canada’s first botanical anti-stress spray close. This travel-sized option known as Relax Spray by A.Vogel can keep you calm before a big presentation, quell the stress of flying when you step on the plane, and a few sprays before you get home after a stressful day can help ease the transition.
In summary, maintain the foundations of health, gather a support network around you to help weather tough situations in life, and keep your Relax Spray close for symptom relief as needed. This winter, every Canadian deserves to flourish and thrive.