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Give winter a bear hug to help overcome seasonal depression

For those of you know me, you know that I’m not a “winter person”.  Even though I was born and raised in the Great White North and consider myself a “dyed-in-the-Hudson’s Bay-wool-blanket, maple leaf waving patriot who convinced her mother to change her 60-year long landed immigrant status to full Canadian citizen in honour of the 150” Canadian, I’ve never been able to bring myself to accept our winters.

This winter is going to be even more of a challenge.  When the COVID crisis started ramping up in late February/early March, the experience was kind of surreal.  We didn’t really understand what we were facing, there were new rules for public interaction, some folks were walking around in masks while others were trying to figure out where to get them, and the biggest inconvenience was the multiple trips to multiple stores to try to find that last, elusive roll of toilet paper.

Now, as we experience the second surge of this horrific pandemic we are also heading into another Canadian winter. This time, we have a better sense of what to expect, we understand social distancing, we’ve survived home schooling and we have watched as small businesses have struggled and innovated to keep their heads above water.  And in many cases, the crisis has brought out the best in people as we have rallied to support our frontline workers, neighbours and local businesses.

But we have also experienced isolation at an unprecedented level.  We have had to adjust to staying home and to not visiting or hugging our friends and family members in person.  This has been especially difficult for our elderly loved ones and for those who struggle regularly with their mental health. 

Approximately 2-3% of Canadians are deeply affected by Season Affective Disorder (SAD), and experts say that another 15% experience mild symptoms each year.  This year, however, there is even more concern that the shorter days, increased darkness and colder temperatures will have an impact on the mental health of Canadians.  We should be thinking about this now – for ourselves as well as our loved ones.  By being aware and proactive, we may be able to counter some of the negative effects of the season so that we can emerge into Spring with joy and hope for the future.

So, given that I’m not a “winter person” and in the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, I’ve challenged myself to embrace the season. What do I mean by that?  I mean no more seasonal denial. I’m going to not just cooperate, I’m going to PARTICIPATE with winter this year. In fact, I”m going to give winter a big old polar bear hug. How, you ask?  Well, I’m going to:

Leg It!

Although I have a tendency to associate winter exercise with hibernation and a heated floor, this year I’m taking it outdoors!  Yes, you heard right.  I’m donning my toque and snowpants and taking this body on the road (well, the sidewalk actually).  Walking is the new black and I’m not letting -30 Celsius and 4 feet of snow hold me back.

Cook Up a Storm

For some reason, I’m obsessed with my kitchen lately.  I think it’s only normal to turn to comfort food in colder months, but, seriously,  I can’t get enough of buying new, unusual and untried ingredients and hunkering down in my kitchen with old episodes of Top Chef for hours at a time.  I also look for recipes that include foods rich in Vitamin D, such as salmon and egg yolk, since a boost in “D” can elevate the mood.  It also helps that my husband is always a willing victim.  And it’s a great way experience and taste the world while staying safely at home.

Seek Solace in the Snow

Okay I’m really doing this!  I have this massive Buddha outdoor art print in my backyard and it’s become my favourite spot to seek a little peace.  After bundling up and clearing an area of the deck for my yoga mat, I park myself and meditate.  Now, you’re probably asking for how long??  And, are you crazy??  Well, depending on the temperature, I’ve been out there anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.  It’s amazing how peaceful it is – to breath the fresh air and listen to the winter birds.  And at the end of every session I am always grateful (to be back inside – jeez it’s cold out there!).

Bring the Beach to the Blizzard

I’ve decided I’m going on vacation this winter.  I don’t care what anyone says! So, since I am obviously NOT boarding a plane any time too soon, I’m bringing the beach to my own backyard.  It’s all about enjoying my patio year round.  My tropical oasis is a cozy getaway made up of comfy couches, a warm firetable, my beloved Spaberry hot tub, and my sunny beach outdoor art print. This gorgeous print adds colour and warmth to an otherwise gray palette, and every time I look out my back window I’m in the sun again.  Unlike outdoor canvas or metal artwork, my print is weatherproof, it stays outside in the harshest cold and snow and remains as beautiful as the first day it went up.  Of course, my trip to the beach is best enjoyed with a pina colada in hand!

Whatever tricks and tools you decide to employ to help you get through this winter, I wish you and your family a healthy Canadian winter season.  And, like true Canucks, we will support each other, weather this storm and emerge like butterflies into a new Spring full of hope and opportunity.

Lisa Hartley, Founder of Off the Wall On the Fence