Many people dread the transition from autumn to winter. The days grow shorter and colder, and thoughts of the upcoming holiday season can cause unneeded stress or dread in anyone’s life. While some are content with the colder weather and happily bundle up to continue their regular routines, others find winter much more difficult to manage. It is estimated that 2-3% of Canadians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder at any given time, and winter is the most common time for SAD symptoms to flare up.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The main criteria for SAD is that an individual must experience major depression or manic episodes that coincide with certain seasons every year for at least 2 years in a row. SAD itself isn’t a type of mood disorder; instead, it’s considered to be a type of major depression or bipolar depression.
However, unlike chronic depression, those affected by SAD won’t experience symptoms during other seasons of the year. For most people with SAD, they begin experiencing symptoms in late autumn or winter, but their symptoms go into remission when spring arrives.
Symptoms of SAD
To have a diagnosis of SAD, the symptoms should be a result of the changing seasons rather than stressful life situations. For example, a person who commonly feels down in the winter due to slow business or lack of work is experiencing other stressors that aren’t directly related to the season. Someone with SAD will notice that the same symptoms appear during specific seasons regardless of how happy they are, or how well their life is going. Although everyone experiences SAD differently, some common symptoms can include:
You might be tempted to just “wait it out” and see if your symptoms go away on their own, but this will only increase the chances of the symptoms becoming more severe. Even though the symptoms may last only a few months, about 6% of people with seasonal affective disorder have to be hospitalized due to their intense feelings of depression or hopelessness.
For any type of depression, including SAD, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will likely run a few tests to rule out other illnesses that can mimic symptoms of SAD, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, low blood sugar, or underactive thyroid. If you are diagnosed with SAD, you will have a few different treatment options, including:
Ways to Decrease SAD Symptoms
Treatment may take some time before you start feeling better, so doctors also recommend making a few small changes in your daily life to combat SAD. These tips can be useful for anyone who may feel a little sluggish or unmotivated at any time during the winter, so encourage your family and loved ones to follow this advice as well!
For more help coping with the symptoms of any depressive disorder, reach out to us at Oakville Wellness Center.
We all know how trying everyday life can be. The minute you roll out of bed, it hits you that you have a long day ahead of you: feeding the dog and letting him out, prepare breakfast or just some coffee to go, slaving away at work. You might not even remember the last time you could sit in total silence and just breathe.
As you might imagine, you are not alone. In fact, it has been reported that nearly 30% of Canadians because the ages of 15 and 75 regularly experience high levels of stress at work. Of course, work is just one face of stress. Add children into the mix and their countless demands, and you must take away some more of your alone time. Caregiver for a sick relative? There goes more--if not all--of your opportunity to relax. Fortunately, as more research regarding the importance of self-care emerges, so do more clever tips to enjoy it--even for the busiest of people. Read on to learn all about self-care.
Self-Care in a Nutshell
Self-care is a fuzzy-sounding term with a relatively straightforward definition: it simply refers to anything you might do with the intention of improving your physical well-being or peace of mind, or both. For instance, perhaps even with your hectic schedule, you still set aside time to prepare yourself a healthy, well-balanced dinner. This could be considered an act of self-care. Other things people might do to improve their physical and mental health include going for a jog, meditating, taking a hot bath, or watching a favorite movie. In short, if it brings you some sense of pleasure, lowers your stress levels, and contributes to your general health, it can be considered self-care.
Why Self-Care is Important
Sometimes the things we find most rewarding are also the most exhausting. For instance, if you care for a severely ill parent, you likely take great pleasure in being able to provide for someone you love deeply. But there is one thing you have trouble admitting to yourself: it is hard, sometimes too hard. You might even feel as though taking a break to attend to your own needs would be selfish. Indeed, sometimes we think we need to wear our stress like a badge of honor. But understand that stress is not just a nagging nuisance to you. Below are some reasons you should take self-care seriously.
- Your Health Could Be at Stake. Yes, being overly stressed can actually affect your physical health. You might get frequent migraines, upset stomachs, even insomnia when all you want to do is sleep. Stress that goes unchecked for too long has even been associated with such conditions as hypertension and heart disease.
If you fall seriously ill, do you think you will be able to be the best caregiver you can be? Probably not. Not to mention, the people who care about you likely want the best for you. And that includes taking time for yourself.
- You Could Be Compromising Your Productivity. You might believe that doing more equals more accomplished. However, if you push yourself to the point of feeling ill or overly stressed, you could be harming your productivity rather than helping it. It has been established over the years that employees who experience the most stress take almost twice as many sick days as their less stressed counterparts. Even if you do not call off sick, can you really be performing your best if your mind is racing ceaselessly?
How to Practice Self-Care
Now that you know what self-care is and why you should practice it. But how can you get started? Below are some tips to help you develop your own self-care routine.
- Pamper yourself; practice great personal hygiene. Sure, even during times of stress, you might perform basic hygiene like brushing your teeth and showering. Sometimes, however, stressed people do not give themselves adequate time to attend to their grooming needs. Your self-care might involve a longer shower. You might even spend extra time styling your hair. It might not seem like much, but taking care of your appearance can help you feel more confident.
- Take time to enjoy healthy, satisfying meals. Most people understand the importance of healthy eating on both physical and mental health. But what about giving yourself the time to eat in the first place? Instead of wolfing down a bag of chips and sandwich at lunch, set time aside to prepare yourself a meal you will actually look forward to, one that ideally offers ample nutrition. Then, actually take your lunch break. Do not look at your phone. Do not try to sneak in work. Simply focus on eating and feeling satisfied.
- Spend time with the people you care about. Yes, sometimes it is hard to make plans when your schedule is packed. But even if you cannot go on a lunch date with your close friend, consider calling her just to chat. You do not have to discuss your woes; you can talk about whatever makes you happy, maybe even laugh a bit.
Want more advice about dealing with stress? Visit Oakville Wellness Center to get started.
Motivation is the thing that gets us up in the morning and keeps us going all day. At least, that’s the idea. The truth is that motivation can often be fleeting, and it’s very common for people to have trouble finding that spark to seize the day. There’s no simple cure for a lack of motivation because it can arise for a multitude of reasons. Factors ranging from your social life and family issues to your personal health can all have a significant impact on how you function from day to day.
Thus, the path to finding more motivation in your daily life is a personal one. Whatever your own struggles may be, we encourage you to consider these suggestions to see if any of them work for you. Some may be more helpful than others, and some may not help much at all. That being said, you may find that the simple act of searching for more motivation will help by itself, opening you up to new ways of looking at yourself and your world.
Clean Your Room
This piece of advice may sound like a chore, but it actually comes from psychologist Ralph Ryback of Psychology Today -- and a number of other important psychologists and researchers agree. Disorganization can loom over you and feel like an impending task (or a past failure of cleanliness) which can lead to a defeated attitude on a subconscious level. Other studies have even shown that people who have cleaner houses tend to be healthier: a finding that supports the notion that making one positive change in your life (such as tidying up) can inspire you to make a succession of additional positive changes.
Sometimes, the cumulative stress of our daily lives just becomes too much. If you find yourself just wanting to get away from it all, consider including exercise into your daily or weekly routine. In John Ratey’s book, Spark, the psychiatrist delves into the various benefits that exercise has on the brain. By elevating your heart rate for thirty minutes just three times a week, studies have shown drastic improvements in overall energy, social skills and focus. Additionally, there is significant evidence that shows how exercise helps to fight depression and anxiety, conditions that are all too common these days.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an “exercise person”, it can be relatively easy to implement a more active lifestyle. For example, going for a walk each day may make a significant difference in your motivation. Just like with cleaning your room, getting a workout in before starting your day can give you a sense of accomplishment to build off of.
You may think that successful people are just naturally motivated. In fact, this is usually not the case. The difference is that many highly-motivated people have just learned how to best channel energy to their benefit. This is something that you too, with a little practice, can accomplish.
The biggest trick to staying motivated is not to rely on it. Motivation comes and goes just like happiness and sadness; it’s only natural. Accepting that fact is the first step to learning how to overcome it. Instead of relying on motivation, rely on discipline. By setting clear and attainable goals for yourself, you can fight a lack of motivation with sheer willpower and determination.
One way to do this is by using SMART goals. Originally invented as an ultra-effective way to set goals, it is now relied on by countless people in order to gauge aspirations and accomplish tasks. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting a goal while following these guidelines, you can ensure that you have the best chance at achieving it.
At Oakville Wellness Center, our expert therapists will always be there to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information or an appointment.
Relaxation is an important part of human life. Everyone loves to take breaks and recuperate from time to time, and relaxation is shown to reduce stress and have several health benefits. Approximately 77% of adults regularly experience physical symptoms as a result of stress. These symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, chest pain, and more, and they can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular diseases and mental health problems. Making time for relaxation can help manage this stress and prevent it from manifesting physically. Techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and rest help produce a relaxation response in the body which can decrease stress and stress-related conditions.
However, as helpful as relaxation can be, the age-old adage “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” applies to relaxation as well. When people achieve relaxation in the wrong ways or over-prioritize it in their lives, there can be unhealthy consequences just as dangerous as having too much stress. Here are some signs that your relaxation techniques might be more problematic than they are beneficial:
You Achieve Relaxation in Harmful Ways
There are both positive and negative ways to achieve relaxation. If you use negative ways to reach a state of relaxation, you are going to increase your stress levels and cause more damage than good. Abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances might feel helpful in the moment, but these coping mechanisms are unhealthy and can have significant health risks. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause physical and emotional problems that can lead to severe bodily damage and even death. You should avoid using substances to try and reduce stress.
Other negative ways people use to try and manage stress include unhealthy or excessive habits. Overeating and binge-eating can be disastrous for your health, which will lead to increased stress and health problems like obesity and heart-disease. Seek help if your stress-managing eating habits have become out of control. Over using entertainment and binge-watching television has been linked with depression and loneliness. While it might be helpful to set aside time to watch television, play video games, or use other electronics to take a break, when you spend hours upon hours doing these activities, you put your health at risk. Poor coping habits like impulsive purchasing can devastate people financially and mentally, and it can also ruin marriages and other relationships. Make sure to avoid these habits when you are trying to deal with the stressors in your life.
Emotionally or physically cheating on a significant other is a surefire way to poison a relationship. Destroying your health and the relationships you have with people you care about is never a good way to manage the problems you are facing in life. If you are participating in any of these activities in order to feel relaxed, your relaxation is harmful, not helpful.
You Over-Prioritize Relaxation
While relaxation can have wonderful benefits for people who make time for it regularly, it can be problematic for people who dedicate too much time to it. If you are relaxing when you should be working or you are slacking off instead of taking care of your responsibilities, you are relaxing in a harmful way. Like anything else in life, relaxation needs to be balanced among your other duties. If you are sleeping or participating in other stress-relief activities when it is time to for you to go to work or take care of your children, then you are not achieving a healthy balance. In fact, sleeping too much can ruin your sleep schedule and cause insomnia. Carve out time for relaxation, but make sure that you have time to take care of your other duties as well. Make sure to relax in moderation.
You Use Relaxation to Avoid Conflict
If you are in a partnership or friendship where there are unhealthy problems that need to be handled, you should not seek relaxation in order to escape or cope with the conflict in those relationships. Do not be so relaxed that you are afraid to confront someone. Avoid using relaxation as a form of escapism in order to prevent yourself from having potentially hard conversations with others. Practice good communication and address issues in your relationships when necessary. Communication is a healthy way to begin to address conflict, and everyone involved will be better for it.
Your Relaxation Promotes Isolation
While it is definitely important to carve out time for yourself and have alone time, be wary if your relaxation techniques only involve isolation. It is important to be around others and to communicate to your friends and family when you are feeling overly-stressed or you are having a difficult time coping with problems in your life. Actively avoiding others is not a beneficial way to relax and it can cause you to feel lonely and depressed.
For more information or for help finding positive relaxation and coping techniques, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
The act of giving birth is one of the most celebrated in human society. We all know parents who gush about this phenomenal experience and detail the elation they felt in the hours and days following. Popular culture and film are also awash with moving scenes of childhood as couples transition to parenthood against a backdrop of sentimental music and family joy.
What is less often depicted is that once the post-partum dust has settled, the early stages of parenthood can be truly difficult.
Whilst many women suffer the “baby blues” and may be anxious or tearful for short periods of time (usually around one to two weeks) following birth, this can sometimes develop into something more serious.
If symptoms last much longer, or start later into motherhood, postnatal depression is a possibility. Postnatal depression (sometimes also referred to as postpartum depression) is a mood disorder associated with childbirth. It is estimated that approximately 13% of women experience postnatal depression.
Symptoms that you or a loved one may be suffering from postnatal depression include:
What causes postnatal depression?
Unfortunately the answer to this isn’t entirely clear but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors.
On a physiological level, pregnancy and birth bring with it a whole host of hormonal changes, which may lead to changes in mood. Hormones affect some women to a greater extent than others.
Parents who have suffered from depression prior to childbirth, are much more likely to develop postnatal depression. A family history of mental illness is also a risk factor.
That said, a history of depression does not automatically mean that you will go on to develop depression postpartum. It may be helpful to be aware that you are at risk, so that you can look out for the signs mentioned above.
Aside from this, there are factors relating to the birth process itself that may trigger postnatal depression. These include:
Your home-life may also be influential. Unsuitable housing or money issues may naturally make the transition to parenthood more stressful. Worries relating to work can also hamper your ability to relax and settle into the changes you face.
A strong support network and supportive partner may provide a protective effect against postnatal depression. It is not helpful to spend too much time alone without adult company so if you are feeling isolated it may be helpful to reach out to other parents in the community.
Can men experience postnatal depression?
Although men may not experience the hormonal storm of pregnancy, they may still be subject to its emotional effects. A recent study conducted in Sweden found that 28% of men demonstrated mild levels of depression. Women are routinely screened for postnatal depression while paternal mental health is often overlooked.
The research team added a series of questions to the most commonly used postnatal depression screen, in order to capture the unique symptoms that may be displayed by men. These included working longer hours, irritability and excessive alcohol consumption.
It is not entirely clear whether depression in fathers is a newer phenomenon, or just something which we have only recently begun to explore and detect. Many new fathers face challenges such as trying to balance their work life with their family life as well as decreased sleep and changes in their relationship.
Naturally, depression makes it harder for a new father to invest time in the newborn. Fathers experiencing difficulties should consider that they may have paternal postnatal depression.
How can postnatal depression be treated?
The first step is to speak to your general practitioner. With prevalence rates estimated to lie at about 13%, it is much more common than you think, and health services are trained to recognise the signs and give you the support that you need.
Self-care: It is also crucial at this stage to be kind to yourself. Take care of your primary needs such as getting enough sleep, eating well and doing things that you enjoy. It may feel like you do not have time for this with a young child on your hands, but don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
Talk therapy: As with many psychological difficulties and types of depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful. Most experienced therapists will be able to provide a course of CBT and tailor it to the specific difficulties you may be having. Many new parents struggle to live up to the ideal of “perfect parent” and may not have anticipated the difficulties associated with parenthood. CBT can help new parents find a way to think about the difficulties they face and learn better coping mechanisms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants may also be useful, particularly if the depression is more severe. Some women worry about taking antidepressants whilst breastfeeding but your doctor will be able to provide you with ones that are safe.
One of the worst things about postnatal depression can be feeling alone or unusual in the feelings you are having. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it can help to reach out to national organisations. These can not only provide information and advice but also networks of other parents to talk to.
Cox, J. L., Holden, J. M., & Sagovsky, R. (1987). Detection of postnatal depression. Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The British journal of psychiatry, 150(6), 782-786.
NHS, Unknown. “Postnatal Depression.” NHS Choices, NHS, 11 Feb. 2016, www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/treatment/.
Psouni, E., Agebjörn, J., & Linder, H. (2017). Symptoms of depression in Swedish fathers in the postnatal period and development of a screening tool. Scandinavian journal of psychology.