The key to shifting seasonal thoughts

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor, Connect Weekly

Toonink5629_Weather(choriz)

Its mid-January… the holiday excitement is put to bed and the warm winter temperatures we had to end 2015 are getting lower and lower.

Like the season, a shift in our thoughts may have been changing. Sounds depressing, right? Probably because it is and it’s why many Canadians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Alberta Northeast (CHMA), SAD effects an estimated half a million people every winter. December, January and February are statistically the hardest months to overcome it.

Long-time residents have had plenty of experience adjusting to our dark winters and sunny summers. However, whether we’ve weathered Fort McMurray for one year or fifty years – we are still affected by the seasonal changes.

(For residents new to winter weather, refer to the CMHA’s website as the most reliable source for mental health education at www,woodbuffalo.cmha.ca. Residents can find further information and local professionals.)

“There’s a shift in our ‘biological internal clocks’ in the brain that regulates our circadian rhythm. It disrupts are daily schedules with symptoms like: decreased concentration, oversleeping, weight gain, withdrawal from social contacts and intense craving for carbohydrates and sweets.”

So, what happens to us that causes this sadness?  As stated on CMHA’s website: “There’s a shift in our ‘biological internal clocks’ in the brain that regulates our circadian rhythm. It disrupts are daily schedules with symptoms like: decreased concentration, oversleeping, weight gain, withdrawal from social contacts and intense craving for carbohydrates and sweets.”

How many of us can say that we’ve been cooped-up inside, devouring the last of the Christmas chocolates left lingering? I’m guilty.

Luckily enough the event organizers of our community keep us entertained and active by giving us plenty of reasons to get out of the house to have fun.

(Check out The MAC Calendar on Page 6 and online at www.mcmurrayallconnected.ca for community event listings).

Because the cause of SAD is the lack of bright light, it’s important to catch some rays, as suggested by CMHA. Another solution is using a light box or a bright light therapy device.

If you’re feeling SAD, the best thing you can do is first recognize you have it. If you’re having a bad day, blame it on winter and remind yourself to have some positive and enlightening activity. Feeling doubtful? Contact the staff at CMHA by calling 780-743-1053. With no judgement, they will offer the best advice to help guide you in the right direction.

Ending on a positive note, I’d like to send a shout out to CHMA’s former Executive Director Karen McMillan. Born and raised in Fort McMurray, McMillan has brought her community passion and dedication to the association for 13 years. December 31, 2015 marked the first day of her retirement. To McMillan: On behalf of all the lives you’ve touched and support you’ve given to our region, thank you and I wish you a life full of laughter and joy as you step into this new life stage.

– Connect Weekly –