The bad news is that the days are getting shorter and colder, signaling that another unforgiving Montreal winter that many fear is imminent. The good news is that if you’re experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression, there are some things you can do to prevent them before they happen.
It’s all about finding ways to continue to prioritize what’s essential to your overall health, says a Montreal guidance counselor and psychotherapist. Naturally, access to these things is even more limited in the winter.
Christina Koufdakis of Montreal Therapy Center suggests seven pillars of health to achieve holistic health at any time: exercise, mental rest, nutrition, nature, sleep, sunlight, and gratitude.
“These seven pillars were born out of research conducted on some of the world’s healthiest people and people who cured themselves of all kinds of chronic mental and physical illnesses,” she said. Told.
“This gives us a little more insight into seasonal depression, because we can see how difficult it is to achieve some of these pillars during the colder months when there’s a lack of sunlight and a lot of energy available. It’s from nature. “
According to Dr. Gabriela Gobbi, professor of psychiatry at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Treatment, an estimated 2-3% of Canadians suffer from seasonal depression, and up to 15% have no actual diagnosis. He reportedly reported his symptoms without undergoing treatment.
“[It’s]a type of mood disorder, a type of depression that occurs primarily in the winter and is characterized by depressive symptoms, particularly severe fatigue, insomnia, an inability to undertake new projects, and sadness.” Gobi said. “We can have very severe seasonal affective disorder, and we can have suicidal behavior.”
In addition to the health pillars being limited during the winter, Koufodakis noted that winter can be a more lonely time in general. People tend to become more isolated, which can lead to dark thoughts.
“Many people have childhood developmental trauma around the holidays,” she said. stagnation. “
She believes the number of people suffering from the symptoms may be much higher than reported, even if some people are unaware they are experiencing them.
“It’s pretty prevalent,” she said. “What the study found is that, rather than age group… it’s actually specific risk factors, such as having recently lost a spouse or partner, having a chronic illness, living alone or feeling lonely, Things like being financially insecure and being a woman, etc. This can be kind of socialized because women are more likely to report these things and seek help.”
Gobi said people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions are also more susceptible to seasonal changes. But both she and Koufodakis say being proactive during the colder, darker months helps.
“We have to do everything we can to prevent it,” Gobi said.
So what is prevention?
“Make sure to get outside whenever you can, whenever the sun is out,” Koufodakis says. “We should all go outside to put something on our faces…Studies have shown that going outside first thing in the morning to see the sun activates the melatonin cycle and promotes sleep. …Even though it’s cold, walking in nature in the snow is very recharging.”
In the absence of sunlight, lamps that mimic sunlight can be helpful, Koufodakis and Gobi said.
“They’re mimicking the experience of being out in the sunlight and recharging energy from the sun,” Koufodakis says. “Some people might say, ‘Oh, it’s a contraption,’ but it’s also a matter of attitude, right? If you value it and buy into it, it’s definitely going to have an even more powerful effect on your health.”
Getting enough sleep is also essential. To maximize your exposure to sunlight, try changing your sleep schedule and waking up earlier.
“It would be ideal if that were possible for humans, because we evolved to wake up with the sun,” Koufodakis said. “Many of us struggle in modern times because we evolved to live outside. Our brains didn’t evolve to look at screens.”
And of course, if you haven’t already, following the remaining pillars other than those restricted by the cold season will also help.
Koufdakis said she has seen clients take responsibility for their health in this way. She said it’s all about taking one step at a time, especially if you’re really struggling, and she’s about being kind and patient with yourself.
“You just have to try it,” Koufodakis said. “I tell my clients, if they’re really at the lowest level of functionality, we’re not going to attack all of these at once, let’s start with one, which is sleep. That’s probably the most important. There are many tips and things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep, and that alone can take your health to the next level. Shall we try it?”
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