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Integrative Family Health Clinic in Bolton and the Greater Caledon Area
4-22 Simona Drive
Bolton, ON

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the seasons change, so do many other parts of our lives. We switch our wardrobes from tank tops to sweaters, we replace our vases of daisies with sunflowers, and we see the start of a new school year. For many Canadians, the change in seasons also brings a change in mood and mental health. Why do 2-3 percent of people feel more down in the fall and winter months? And what is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Keep reading to find out.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that arises annually at the same time of year. It usually occurs in the fall and winter months, however some people also experience it in the summer months. SAD must occur annually for more than two years in a row to be considered more than just the occasional low mood around the holidays. 

What are the Symptoms of SAD?

The symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder are identical to the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The only difference is the duration and when the symptoms start and end. SAD symptoms typically begin as the seasons change from summer to fall and end when they change from winter to spring. 

Here are the most common symptoms of SAD:

  • Sadness that occurs most of the day and for at least two weeks straight
  • Appetite and weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Withdrawal from activities usually enjoyed, including socialization
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hallucinations and delusions

Suicidal ideation is another common symptom that must be taken seriously and immediately addressed. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact Crisis Services Canada.

What are the Risk Factors for SAD?

There are multiple theories about what causes SAD. It’s generally agreed that SAD is related to sunlight levels and sleep patterns. 

In Canada and many other parts of the world, our daylight hours decline during the fall and winter months. At night, the brain produces a hormone called melatonin which promotes sleep and drowsiness. With less sunlight in the fall and winter, the brain produces more melatonin which affects your mood and energy levels. This also affects your circadian rhythm, increasing fatigue and either increasing or decreasing the amount of sleep you get. 

Another possible theory is the decline in serotonin the brain produces in the fall and winter. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood and energy levels. Studies show that serotonin turnover in the brain and serotonin production are lowest in the winter months, which means it could play a significant role in triggering SAD. 

CAMH lists additional risk factors for experiencing SAD. They include being female, living farther north or south of the equator, being a young person, and having a family history of depression. Having pre-existing mental conditions such as substance addiction and eating disorders may increase your likelihood of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

COVID-19 and Seasonal Affective Disorder

The pandemic has caused immense stress, and has even led to a spike in Canadians with anxiety and depression. This is not surprising as COVID-19 has caused people to lose their jobs temporarily and permanently putting many people’s financial security at risk. That coupled with the inability to spend time in person with loved ones and children’s inability to socialize at school has contributed to increased depression and anxiety. 

With the winter months around the corner, it would not be surprising to also see higher numbers of Seasonal Affective Disorder across the board. The holidays are already stressful for many, and with the threat of spreading the virus making people hesitate before they gather with family, it could become even more stressful. 

This year more than ever, it will be important for Canadians to prioritize their mental health with self-care, awareness, and proactive prevention of depression. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosis

Getting diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder is nearly identical to the process of getting diagnosed with depression. Your physician or health care provider will ask you a series of questions regarding your mood, energy levels, other symptoms, and your thoughts. They may perform tests to rule out other conditions, but can ultimately diagnose you with SAD based on your answers to their questions. 

How To Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are several different treatment options for SAD, some with more reported effectiveness than others. It’s best to follow your health care provider’s recommendations for treatment. 

One of the most effective and widely known forms of treatment is light therapy. As mentioned above, the lack of sunlight in the fall and winter affects our brain chemicals and circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that exposing people living with SAD to Bright Light Therapy (BLT) can effectively reduce and treat their depression. 

What does BLT involve? Usually, patients will sit in front of a fluorescent light source that mimics sunlight for a set amount of time each day. For some, 30 minutes in front of this light source is enough to act as an antidepressant for their depression. Times range from 30 minutes to 2 hours daily for 2-4 weeks to see results. However, there are some side effects including eye strain, nausea, and headaches. 

Other effective treatments for SAD include a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and self-care activities. It’s recommended that patients try to spend more time outdoors during the daytime to increase their serotonin and dopamine levels, as well as increase their intake of vitamin D. 

Some self-care activities to increase in the fall and winter months are:

  • Exercising  
  • Socializing (socially distanced and virtual)
  • Mindfulness
  • Relaxation and laughter
  • Speaking to a therapist

You may also want to review your diet to see if any crucial nutrients are missing from it which could be affecting your mood. 

How We Can Help

Wildflower Health and Wellness is excited to announce the opening of our Natural Dispensary. We offer high quality medicinal dried herbs, herbal tinctures, and professional line supplements all of which are certified clean. Contact us today to refill your supplements – including melatonin and vitamin D3.

Finding Calm in the Chaos

What your naturopath is doing right now.

 

I’m not sure about you, but for me the days blend together and it all actually feels like 1 long day. The world feels dangerous and the threat is invisible. 

We’ve all had our lives affected by COVID-19 and the fallout is going to continue for some time. Uncertain times, such as now, can always trigger the difficult feelings of worry, nervousness and panic. It can feel as if you are spiraling out and the result is feeling a lack of control; that in turn, sets off the emotional and mental alarm bells causing what we call anxiety.

Read More

teacher's desk filling with books and causing stress

The Ultimate End-of-Summer Checklist for Teachers

You can hear the morning bell ringing in your head. September is getting closer each day, and your stress is starting to build. If only there was a way to maintain your vacation zen all year round. Staying stress-free in September is a mighty goal, but is it possible? The resounding answer is yes, if you start working on your wellness now. Everything from your diet to your sleeping habits can affect your ability to show up energized and focused. Luckily, you can find a naturopath in Caledon at Wildflower Health & Wellness to make it easy for you. Learn how to boost and maintain your wellness so you can have a stress-free September; here is the ultimate wellness checklist for teachers.

 1. Plan Your Physical Activity

Getting active in the summer is much easier than during the school year. You have the time and flexibility to work out at different times of day in different locations. One day you’re jogging at the cottage, the next is late-morning yoga. Staying active is crucial for your energy levels. If you want to feel energized and alert in class, maintain a physical activity routine. 

While it’s still summer, start experimenting with different types of workouts. You could try kickboxing, swimming, weight-lifting or even tai chi. The only thing you need to make sure of is that each option has is a time slot that works with your school schedule. Will you be waking up extra early to work out or going straight from school? Find a workout facility that’s near your home or near the school you work at. Ensure they have classes at the times that suit you or an open gym all day. 

 2. Improve Your Sleeping Habits

Inadequate sleep is one of the top reasons you might lack energy during the day. In the summer it’s not a big deal, especially when you can sleep in and go to bed as late as you like. Come September, that switch could be intense. It’s best to start working on your sleeping patterns now so you’re prepared for the first day of school.

Address whatever’s preventing you from getting a good night sleep. Is it your stress and anxiety? Are you restless and uncomfortable? Do you fall asleep easily but have trouble getting into a deep sleep? These are all common sleep concerns facing teachers. Slowly get back into the schedule of going to bed on time and waking up when you need to for school. Then, learn how to handle the causes of your restlessness. For many teachers, lifestyle counselling is an effective way to figure out the underlying cause of their sleepless nights and learn how to fix it. Consult a naturopath in Caledon for lifestyle counselling and solutions to your sleeping troubles.   

 3. Address Your Low Energy

Sometimes it’s not just your lack of sleep causing you to have low energy. It could be a myriad of things relating to your health. If you want to be on your toes and keeping up with your students, consider getting the following tested: reproductive hormones, food sensitivity, and your digestive function panel. 

When your reproductive hormones aren’t balanced your metabolism is affected. For women, this can cause severely heavy periods which cause low energy and fatigue. In either sex, there could be an imbalance in your thyroid hormones which causes fatigue as well. 

Food sensitivity testing can show you which foods you have intolerances to. When your body consumes certain foods, it could become fatigued as a result of your sensitivity.  

If you’re experiencing signs of malabsorption, you should have your digestive panel assessed. Fatigue and low energy are sometimes the results of essential nutrients from your food not getting absorbed. Consult your naturopath in Caledon to know which of these tests is best suited to your unique circumstance.   

 4. Start Meal Planning & Prepping

The last thing you want to worry about during the school week is what you’ll be having for dinner. Take that burden off your plate by meal planning and prepping. It’s crucial that you get a balanced and nutritious diet as a teacher. Relying on fast food and processed foods will result in energy crashes and serious tiredness. 

On the weekend, research meals that are both delicious and nutritious. Do your grocery shopping and prepare your meals for the week. That could mean cooking a big pot of stew for your lunches or pre-cutting vegetables for your mid-morning snacks. The idea is to get as much of the legwork done on the weekend so your school nights are less hectic. Plus, if you have a plan for each dinner of the week, you’ll be less tempted to get fast food or a different unhealthy option.    

5. Decrease Your Stress

There are tons of ways to decrease your stress as a teacher. The top way is staying organized and prepared for the days ahead of you. When you fall behind, your stress levels go through the roof. Many teachers find calendar blocking helpful when trying to get everything done. Assign each hour on your calendar to a task, some of which are for preparation and organization.

Make sure you also assign time for your health and wellness. If you don’t make yourself a priority, the students will sense it; they’ll spot your tiredness and stress. Be the best teacher you can be for them and for yourself. That could mean getting weekly acupuncture sessions or B12 injections. Take time to do things you enjoy outside of teaching, like singing karaoke or walking your dog. The key is to schedule those things in like you do your work tasks so that you’re more likely to do them. 

teacher stressing about school

Are You Ready to Start Checking Off Those Wellness Boxes? 

Don’t let the end-of-summer blues get you down. You can have an amazing school year if you prioritize your health and wellness. Staying energized and focused during the school year is a challenge for all teachers, but it doesn’t have to be. Start working through the ultimate wellness checklist for teachers above. Then, consult a professional and experienced naturopath in Caledon to make the most of each step.

Wildflower Health & Wellness is the top naturopathic clinic in Caledon, Bolton, Tottenham and Kleinburg. Our talented practitioners specialize in helping teachers get prepped for the stressful school year ahead. To learn about our services, send us a message or give us a call at (905) 951-7134.

Holiday Mayhem

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Merry Stress Management

We’ve all been there. You’re standing in line at a crowded shopping mall, there aren’t enough cashiers, and the line is moving unbelievably slow. It took more than 15 minutes to find a parking spot and now you’re running late but it’s okay because the sound system is blaring Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you,” right?

For many, the winter holidays mark a festive but also difficult time. It seems like everything demands our attention. Work deadlines to end off the year, pressure to buy well-received gifts, financial stress, unwanted conversations with family and not to mention the regular regimen of eating healthy and exercising. It’s a unique time because after the holiday season, this stress will go away. It’s the same stress that is also a predictable stress that we have the power to manage. In a survey conducted by Healthline in 2015, 62% of people surveyed reported elevated stress levels during the holidays, while 10% reported no stress whatsoever. Great for that 10%, but what can the majority do to thrive this holiday season?

…62% of people surveyed reported elevated stress levels during the holidays…

1. Making a list, checking it twice

Whether you are naughty or nice, make a list of what needs to be done. By writing it down you effectively declutter your mind and ensures that you don’t forget key tasks. Having your to-do list swirl around in your head will inevitably ensure that random tasks will pop up at the wrong time when you are already doing a million things or when you’re trying to catch some z’s. While pen and paper works the best, you can also use a notes app on your smartphone.

it’s perfectly okay to not be in the Christmas spirit.

2. Channel kind Grinch vibes

The Grinch vibe is to say no. Despite what you are told, it’s perfectly okay to not be in the Christmas spirit. In plain terms, you can say no to obligations/responsibilities. Yes, it is possible to say no from a kind place, unlike the Grinch. Adding obligations to your plate might seems like a good idea to channel the holiday/Christmas spirit, however the spirit should not be draining you or stop you from doing the things that you truly enjoy. This time more than any other time you should protect your valuable time and energy.

Ways to say no:

  • “Thank you for thinking of me. I have this project that I am working on right now.”
  • “I am fully committed to doing this task before I can take on anything else.”
  • “Thank you for inviting me, unfortunately I can’t make it out to the Christmas party this year.”

3. Family time

If it’s uncomfortable to be around family because you may be avoiding some members and/or conversations, then keep in mind that the holidays are a time for families to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Stick to activities that you can jointly enjoy and/or areas of conversation that are of interest to both parties. Be mindful of your words and avoid combative language. Keep in mind that you can have a conversation someone without having the same perspective. Accept that you may not change the other person’s mind which will ease the tension in conversation. When all else fails, you can end a conversation before you see it turning hostile and change the topic to something you do agree upon.

For some people the holidays mark a sad time when there may be missing family members who have passed away. During this time, gift yourself some TLC without isolating yourself. While you don’t have to force yourself to be happy, you can take a walk, get some air, acknowledge your grief and talk to a trusted friend or family member.

4. Deck the halls with self care

Because the holiday season requires us to take on more responsibility than usual, our brain goes into overdrive. It may be acceptable for us to let go of personal health habits to complete other activities (ex: skipping exercise because of late working hours). Your daily routine is how you take care of your mind and body. It may include things such as physical activity, a cup of tea, journaling, getting to bed at a decent hour. Does it make sense to let go of your routine during the most stressful time of year? During the holidays you can keep your mental and physical stability by continuing your self care routine. Things may shift around a bit and you may skip some days but don’t toss your routine out of the window completely.

5. Presents under the tree

Are you also a well-deserving? YES! Be kind to yourself and give yourself a gift every day!

Self care gift ideas:
  • Take some time off of work to do something you enjoy
  • Sleep in for one day
  • Learn something new (ex: new recipe, new way to wrap presents, etc.)
  • Reminisce about good memories from the past year
  • Reflect on the passing year and make some goals for next year
  • Laugh! Watch a comedy show
  • Take advantage of your health benefits before the year ends

Stress around the holidays can come out in different ways. For some it can be difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, feeling angry, irritable or out of control, experiencing headaches, poor energy, or body aches and pains. Pay attention to your stress signals and take care of yourself.

Happy Holidays!

[/bt_text][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSmallSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][bt_row_inner][bt_column_inner width=”1/1″ align=”center” cell_padding=”default” vertical_align=”inherit” highlight=”no_highlight” background_color=”” opacity=”” el_class=”” el_style=””][bt_button text=”Stress Management Starts Here – Work with WHW” icon=”” url=”https://wildflowerhw.janeapp.com/” target=”_self” style=”Outline” icon_position=”Inline” color=”Accent” size=”Medium” width=”Normal” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_button][/bt_column_inner][/bt_row_inner][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSemiSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][bt_dropdown title=”References” dd_content=”American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-conversations.aspx
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-stress.aspx

Havard Medical School: http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_dropdown][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSemiSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][/bt_column][/bt_row][/bt_section]