Culture Blog

Warming Up to Winter

Warming Up to Winter

Feb 24, 2023
Category: General 

Holding space for our mental and emotional well-being in the winter months is an act of self-care. In an interview with Christina Dobson, clinical director for the Mental Health and Wellness program we explore positive winter mindsets, seasonal affective disorder and mental health.

Christina is a first generation Canadian born to an English father and Irish mother. She has served CSFS for over 25 years, and earned her doctorate degree on mental health with Carrier people.


Q: As the seasons change, how can we create a self-care environment during winter? 

A: Winter is a time to reflect on the year as most of us tend to slow down as the temperatures steadily fall. It can be helpful to adopt a positive winter mindset and look at it as a ritualistic time – a time to rest, plant seeds and think about necessary changes needed to implement into our daily lives. From that understanding, we create an environment that embraces winter rather than dread it. 


Q: Having a positive winter mindset is such an important foundation. What other practical steps can we take to get through winter?

A: Staying connected is one of the pillars of mental health - spending time with friends and family brings ways for people to come together to share stories, cultural knowledge, laughter and, of course, food. However, embracing a positive outlook and getting connected does not mean we deny the realities of the season. An example of that reality is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 


Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about SAD?

A: This is a type of depression related to changes in seasons, usually due to limited daylight hours. Less sunlight and shorter days can be linked to a chemical change in the brain and might be a reason for SAD. People might find themselves feeling more irritable, having low energy and challenged to engage in day-to-day routines. Some people are more affected than others. SAD usually gets worse around February/March, especially here in northern British Columbia. 


Q: What are some of the common symptoms that you have SAD?

A: Behaviors like isolation, oversleeping, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain are common symptoms. The shorter days could cause excessive fatigue/low energy as well. Although if these symptoms are persistent, try not to simply brush them off as simply a case of the winter blues that you have to tough out on your own. You can always reach out for support and CSFS has a Mental Health and Wellness program if anyone feels particularly down.


Q:  Are there steps to take to counterbalance the lack of sunlight?

A: Light therapy, taking vitamin D supplements and recognizing the importance of healthy habits, exercise and rest helps. Also, we can take steps to keep motivation steady throughout the year by engaging in winter activities like sports, crafts, or indoor exercises.  At 60, I just got myself a hula hoop to use when it gets really cold and windy. I get creative with getting my heartrate up.  


Q: Earlier you mentioned people can reach out to our Mental Health and Wellness program for support. How can community members access this resource?

A: We have a saying here that every door is the right door. You can call any of our offices and ask to be put through to the program. You can walk into your community health clinic or ask a medical doctor for an appointment. There are zero barriers to getting into our program. We definitely encourage people to seek help if they need more support during this season. You can reach out to the Prince George Mental Health and Wellness Services team at 250-564-4079, or Burns Lake at 250-692-2387. 


Q: Thank you so much for your time, Christina. Any more information you would like share? 

A: The Crisis Prevention, Intervention and Information Centre is available 24/7. The crisis line 1-888-562-1214 is a safe, confidential and non-judgmental crisis line to discuss anything troubling you. The KUU-US Crisis Line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-588-8717. Alternatively, individuals can call direct into the Youth Line at 250-723-2040 or the Adult Line at 250-723-4050.


By Olamipo Bandele


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Last modified: Wednesday 03-Apr-24 12:36:28 PDT