Monday, October 29, 2018

Winter Blues or Winter Ready?

snow and rain keep people inside and lack of sunlight is though to cause seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Just as the beginning chills are in the air, you may feel the winter blues settling in. Lethargic, withdrawn and irritable - do any of these feelings describe you?

I was standing outside talking with a group of women one late summer evening and we could feel the air getting chillier as the time passed. We were grabbing for sweaters and jackets to keep ourselves comfortable, when one of the women, with arms raised high, burst out “I am ready for winter! - Really I am!” Another women agreed “Me too!”, she said. Others I could tell were not in agreement but managed to generate a smile, look away and stay silent. As I age, I have seen far fewer people ready to take on the challenge of the upcoming cold season with a renewed energy. When you think about the change from winter to spring it has a much more positive effect. We start to see our neighbors outside cleaning up their gardens, cars drive by with their windows rolled down, the runners are out and about with their T-shirts and shorts. It’s relaxing feeling the vitamin D warm your face after the long winter.

In 1984 the term seasonal affective disorder was first used to classify a type of depression in which people experience depressive episodes during specific times of the year. Many years ago, when I heard a neighbor tell me she thought she had this, I didn’t think she was serious or that it even existed. Now that I have aged and I am experiencing symptoms too, I understand why it is real and the numbers prove it. Seasonal affective disorder affects as much as 1.4% of the population in Florida and up to 9.9% of people in Alaska. Overall it is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. A higher number of people in northern climates are susceptible, compared to those living in southern climates.
For some being a bit cranky and irritable and putting on some extra weight during the winter months isn’t overly terrible. However, some experience complete withdrawals from life and despair –likely caused by seasonal affective disorder or the misleading sugar-coated term – “the winter blues”.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  1. Feeling depressed, moody most of the day
  2. Loss of interest in typical activities
  3. Overeating – craving carbohydrates
  4. Difficulty sleeping
  5. Lack of energy
  6. Trouble concentrating
  7. Withdrawing from friends and family
In a majority of cases, the symptoms appear in late fall or early winter and start to go away during
snow and rain keep people inside and lack of sunlight is though to cause seasonal affective disorder
spring and summer. SAD is 4 times more common in women than men. It is more common in people who live further from the equator where daylight hours during the winter are shorter; and most people start experiencing symptoms in their 30’s. A less common type of SAD is known as summer depression which usually beings in the late spring or early summer. About 6% of patients with SAD require hospitalization and many people who have been diagnosed with SAD have at least one close relative with a psychiatric disorder.
If you have one bad winter and bounce back, you are probably just facing the normal ups and downs of life. If you have symptoms of depression during the fall and winter months for two or more years in a row, you may want to discuss this with your doctor.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, know that it’s not your fault. Sometimes people that don’t have depression think you can decide to be happy and do not understand that there are hormones and brain chemicals that make you feel this way. The good news is, there’s help!

Unfortunately, experts are not sure what causes this disorder. Some researchers believe it is combination of the effects of the following:
  • Increased melatonin. During the night and in periods of reduced light (as occurs in the winter), a gland in the brain produces a hormone called melatonin which makes you feel drowsy. On dull winter days, people with the condition may find it difficult to get up or may feel drowsy during the day. 
  • Decreased serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate mood and behavior. Sunlight seems to have an effect on serotonin levels so shorter days and longer nights may cause decreased levels of serotonin. 
  • Biological clock. Reduction in the amount of sunlight may change your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
Risk Factors
SAD occurs more in younger adults than older adults
Factors that may increase your risk:
  1. Relatives have SAD
  2. Living far from the equator which will have decreased sunlight during the winter and long days during the summer
  3. Have bipolar disorder to major depression that may worsen in the seasons if you have one of these conditions
How is SAD diagnosed?
It is sometimes tricky to determine the difference between SAD and other types of depression because the symptoms are similar. Some of the questions a doctor may ask are:
  • Do you get depressed around the same season and get better as the seasons changed?
  • Are you gaining weight or sleeping more than usual?
  • Do you have a relative with SAD?
Treatment Options
  1. Talk therapy – talking to a professional can help you identify patterns in negative thing and behavior that impact depression. A professional can also help with ways of coping with symptoms and techniques to help relax and restore your lack of energy. There a many counselling options available today, including telephone and online counselling which make getting help much more convenient and affordable.
  1. Light therapy – There are 2 different types:
    • Dawn simulation – dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep and gets brighter overtime to mimic a sunrise
  • Bright light treatment – place a light box on a desk or table and sit in front of it while you read, eat meals or work at a computer
Light boxes typically use lights that are brighter than indoor lights but not a bright as sunlight and are normally prescribed 30 minutes to 2 hours per day. It is important that you consult with a doctor first to make sure you are buying an effective and safe device as there have been complaints of retinal damage. The FDA does not approve or regulate light box devices.
  1. Medication – Antidepressants may help people with severe cases of SAD but they all come with side effects. Please consult with your doctor about the medication and its side effects if you suffer from SAD.
Self Help
  • Moderate exercise is one of the best things to do for yourself. Walking, riding a bike, or
    swimming. Get a friend to come with you to a fitness class to make it more enjoyable. 
  • Even during the winter months, go outside as much as you can. Even weak sunlight and light reflected off snow can increase your exposure to light.
    snow and rain keep people inside and lack of sunlight is though to cause seasonal affective disorder
  • You may feel like you would rather be alone but this is a slippery slope. If this is the case, make a concerted effort to see friends or family more as this will help boost your mood and keep you occupied.
  • Develop a consistent bedtime routine which includes no devices a couple of hours before bed and ensure you get plenty of sleep.
  • Arrange your house and office furniture to maximize your exposure to light.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Ideally get 8 hours of sleep. Although sleeping in is tempting on those cold winter mornings, set an alarm to get yourself out of bed at the same time every morning. 
  • Take a holiday to the warm sunny south to eliminate symptoms of SAD.
Understand that you are not alone. You are not the first person to experience the effects of winter and you will certainly not be the last. A great resource for people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder are the counsellors at TeleCounsel Group. Together, they can help guide and direct you with techniques to overcome the depression you are experiencing. Don’t delay – sign up today!

Healthwise staff – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Arnold Lieber, MD – Seasonal Affective Disorder
Bulletproff Staff – What to Do about the Winter Blues

References: Andrew Gordon (Speaker). (2017, December). Messages [Audio]. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Professional Christian Counselors|Let's Put Smart To Work
couple resting atop mountain on a rock overlooking scenic pastureland
Rest – those ‘aaahh’ moments where ‘being’ trumps doing and we silently heal. Where is it that you find your rest? Much of modern society exalts productivity as one of its highest values. We applaud a person’s ability to multi-task, produce measurable results, and be an ‘all-things-to-all-people’ type who rarely says No. But there’s a problem. Our minds and bodies have limits and we need to assess our capacity to perform before we over commit and over-exhaust. As Christians, we can even fall into the trap of ‘doing for’ Jesus rather than ‘resting in’ Jesus.
Many of us have absorbed the consequences of mood swings, stress, migraines, sleep deprivation, cognitive inefficiencies, immune deficiencies, and more, largely because the desire to meet expectations and receive applause is stronger than taking care of our own health. Ironically, exhaustion and stress lead to greater unproductivity and all kinds of mental, physical, social, and emotional health problems that lead to more serious symptoms and disease. To combat aging, disease, genetic disturbance, and poor lifestyle management, we need to prioritize rest as a primary ingredient into our lives.
Always ‘Unresting’
From eating a sandwich to taking in noise from the environment while we’re on the computer, every human being is constantly absorbing new data from the environment. Our minds and bodies are always on the move – adapting, regenerating, and renewing. Rest is not passivity – it’s just the opposite. When we rest as human beings, the goal is not just to escape stress and rigor for a moment – it’s the process by which we restore our health and keep on contently moving into further levels of productivity. Our bodies not only need to survive, they want to thrive, and if we short-change rest, then our immune systems will become overworked and we’ll end up being less productive, less healthy, and less satisfied in the long run.
What Is Rest?
For the purposes of this article, rest will be defined as a necessary habit that seeks to restore well-being through active or passive activities that lacks physical or mental discomfort, exertion, or imbalance. [i]
blurry people from fast paced, busy staircase intersection inside a mall

No Time To Rest
Sometimes life gets busy and we simply must get busy with it. Different times, seasons, and stressors can require life imbalance that can’t be changed or dismissed just because it’s our preference. So, when we talk of rest in a discussion like this, we’re not denying the existence of these seasons but rather advocating for a general life pattern for our lives to principled upon.
Designing and scheduling rest will look differently for different people, so chose a schedule and design that makes sense for your daily routine. Breaks are not meant to just passively sit, they are meant to rejuvenate with healthy living choices which blend a variety of wellness strategies from all areas of life - physical exercise, stress reduction, healthy eating, solitude, socialization, and more. [ii] Because our definition of rest indicates a lack of ‘exertion’, positive lifestyle habits like preparing nutritious food and exercising will not be discussed. Take a look at the list below and choose 1-2 that you could begin to strategize toward positive change today.

1. Schedule Rest. Take a mental/ physical break after 90 minutes of concentrated, mental effort (especially important for those with office jobs). Walk, socialize, listen to music, work-out. Change your break ‘style’ to add variety. Incorporate breaks throughout your day (ie walk 3 times for 10 minutes rather than once for 30 minutes), alternate sitting and standing, [iii] spend time building relationships to increase job satisfaction, coping, and interpersonal relationships [iv]

2. Do The Opposite Of What You Are Doing. Change positions/ spaces from your primarily work area (ie if you work in an office, consider taking a walk outside. If you work dark space, move into a bright one). Ideally, walk outside as nature-based stimuli have shown to promote the most optimal healing [v]

3. Sleep As Passive Rest. The National Heart & Lung Institute recommends 11-12 hours for preschoolers, 10 hours for school-aged kids, 9-10 hours for teens, and 7-8 hours for adults. Heart disease, migraines, obesity, diabetes, and mood disorders have been linked to a lack of sleep. [vi] Avoid afternoon naps, caffeine late in the day, and computer use before bed.

4. Socialize In Your Rest. No man is an island (John Donne). We were made for connection. Don’t have a friend? Be one to get one. Activity groups are a great way to connect and keep accountable.

5. Incorporate Physical Touch In Your Rest. Touch increases vascular activity and promotes emotional and physical well-being. Hugs, therapeutic massage, pets, and spousal affection can be vital tools to feeding our hunger for emotional connection and well-being.
lady rests in hammock overlooking calm waters to rejuvenate her spirit

6. Physical meditation is defined here as the process of using our physical (bodily) system to influence our emotional and mental well-being. Consider guided deep breathing, slow stretching, and progressive muscle relaxation program's. When they’re practiced regularly, stress, anxiety, blood pressure and pain levels have been shown to decrease, and cardiovascular and immune system levels improve. [vii]

7. Laugh: Did you know that laughing can decrease pain and promotes muscle relaxation and cardiovascular strength? Schedule hilarity to decrease the emotional and mental tension of the day – your mind and body will thank you for it (especially if you work in an intensive environment (i.e. emergency services)! [viii]

Spiritual Rest - Did Jesus Rest?
God practiced rest at the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:2-3), and commanded that it be a routine part of the weekly practice of His people. (Exodus 16:30, 20:11). Jesus also prioritized rest while He was on earth because throughout the gospels He regularly seeks out desolate places to rest and encourages His disciples to the same. (Mark 1:45, 6:31,) His solitude was often private or just with the disciples. At times, it occurred in the morning to begin His day (Mark 1:45), and also occurred during times of distress like before His crucifixion. It was often accompanied by prayer (Mark 6:46).

Solitude & Biblical Meditation : When we interact with Scripture we interact with Christ Himself who is the Word (John 1:1). The Bible is not a story about God, the Bible communicates the very words of God. Unlike any other book it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) – it is God actually speaking. Like a sports game is enhanced in its enjoyment when we know the rules of play, our spiritual connection with Jesus increases when we understand who He actually is and what He has done. While the Bible is God initiating a conversation with us, the process of Biblical Meditation is the process of us continuing the conversation and communicating back to Him. In biblical meditation we reflect on Who He is as informed by biblical truth, and respond in our adoration, thanks, confession, and requests. This often happens best in Solitude. Have a schedule times to steal away to a desolate place and commune with Him?

Entering Into True Rest
Jesus Himself promises to give us rest when we ‘labor and are heavy laden’ (Matthew 11:28), but Jesus’ rest goes further than a practice or a place. The Old Testament law of obeying all the rules and resting on the seventh day of the week, symbolically point forward to Jesus because He is the One who obeyed perfectly on our behalf so that we can now fully rest in Him. Hebrews talks about entering Jesus’ rest because the rest that He offers goes beyond the giving of mental restoration to the giving of Himself. He encourages us to come to Him as a person and find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:29) Because of Jesus’ life and work we are free – free from the trap of pursuing earthly things which will always disappoint. No amount of healthy strategies we employ will prevent the inevitability of death, and it is right there in the choke of that reality that those who believe in Him breathe fresh oxygen in the hope of the eternity that awaits them. Yet the benefits of His rest are not just a warm eternal thought, but an earthly experience as well. We find our rest as we commune with Him – that’s why we’ve got to connect with Him through His Word. Our salvation is secure. His sovereign plans will not be thwarted. His resurrected power is true and experiential for the darkest of earthly circumstances because we ultimately find our contentment and rest in Him, not a strategy.
Spiritual rest is not an equal part of our holistic ‘rest’ plan, it is the crucial, fundamental cornerstone on top of which all other holistic strategies must align with for a proper healthy human experience. Until we learn what it means to preach the gospel to ourselves in all circumstances and find our rest in Him, all other forms of rest will provide temporal benefit that will never fully satisfy. Human strategies will likely move us farther ahead than we are in many ways, but the power and work of Jesus will move us beyond what we are in ourselves, to purposes beyond what we can imagine and into the rest of Jesus Himself.
Rest is not passive and it is holistic. Entering into spiritual rest is the crucial center point upon which all other holistic forms of rest are built upon which lead to optimal spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while . (Mark 6:31)
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[i] The Journal Of School Nursing: The Official Publication Of The National Association Of School Nurses [J Sch Nurs] 2016 Aug; Vol. 32 (4), pp. 234-40. Date of Electronic Publication: 2015 Oct 05.
[ii] Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2007 Mar;15(3):266; author reply 267. (PMID: 17322139)
[iv] Publisher: Japan Society for Occupational Health Country of Publication: Japan NLM ID: 9616320 Publication Model: Print-Electronic Cited Medium: InternetISSN: 1348-9585 (Electronic)Linking ISSN: 13419145 NLM ISO Abbreviation: J Occup Health Subsets: MEDLINE
[v] Consciousness And Cognition [Conscious Cogn] 2016 May; Vol. 42, pp. 277-285. Date of Electronic Publication: 2016 Apr 16.
[vi] Kessler RC; Berglund PA; Coulouvrat C; Hajak G; Roth T; Shahly V; Shillington AC; Stephenson JJ; Walsh JK. Insomnia and the performance of US workers: results from the America Insomnia Survey.SLEEP 2011;34(9):1161-1171.
5Schoenborn CA, Adams PF, Peregoy JA. Health behaviors of adults: United States, 2008–2010. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics 10(257). 2013.
[vii] Benson H, Casey A, Dadoly A, et al., eds. Stress Management: Approaches for preventing and reducing stress. A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report. Boston, MA: Harvard Medical School; 2008.

So glad we’ve connected! I’ve got one hubby and three kiddos in my fam - I drink lattes at Starbs and am teased mercilessly for shortening words and adding the Canadian, eh? onto too many sentences, eh? I’m the parent on the sidelines yelling a little too loud for the home team, but also love to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea on a rainy day … or any day. I love my family and friends – the whole messy lot of them – and how every mistake we make births another opportunity for grace. I’ve slowly discovered the rich delight of little joys. I’m a therapist because I love to journey alongside the broken and remain in wonder of how the same Jesus who spoke creation into life at the beginning of time has something life-giving to say to our broken bits now. At the end of my life, here’s what I want my life to have spoken: JESUS. Redeeming the mess-ups? JESUS. Fueling delight? JESUS. Motivating action? JESUS. Everything else is pageantry – which is why I love God’s Word so much. Jesus is the only trustworthy One to offer real hope and redemption for our eternal futures and everyday realities. Experiencing Jesus alive and at work in YOU is essential, possible and awesome! We devote ourselves to His Word not because we love words but because we love the One whom the words reveal.
Join the journey, eh? We’re experiencing Jesus at LOVE the Word - LIVE the Word at It’s a place to come as you actually are and be encouraged to meet Christ as He actually is. A place to press fresh Jesus words into your next batch of stained circumstances. A place where we refuse to pursue ourselves but relentlessly pursue Jesus who will transform us as we pursue Him.

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