Increase in calls to Pathways Counselling Resource Centre in Penticton shows the hardships of a blue January

Toughest month hits hard

Casey Richardson

January is a month known for its cold weather and dark, cloudy skies. In Penticton, one outpatient counselling treatment centre sees the tough month’s impacts coming through its doors.

“I think the big spike is Seasonal Affective Disorder, which a lot of people suffer from, but also the fact that they can get the blues over Christmas,” said Stephen King, a counsellor at Pathways Counselling Resource Centre.

“There are many people we see that are in physical or emotional pain, and therefore how do they get away from that? If you're stuck at home, and you cannot get yourself outside, depression can set in easily.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association says getting out, even for a short time, to get sunlight could help with your mood. If that isn't an option, there is light therapy, which can provide special light that helps to impact your mood.

January blues can manifest as low mood, sadness, lack of motivation, tiredness and low energy.

“Specifically here, maybe throughout British Columbia, when you've got the clouds coming down, you've got the heaviness, you've got Christmas, New Years, you've got adversarial issues. A lot of people don't necessarily get out there. There are a lot of lonely people out there as well. So I think there's a good cluster of different reasons why people get somewhat depressed.”

There are people who thrive in winter, getting outdoors for all sorts of winter sports and activities.

“But for a lot of people, it means sticking indoors a lot more. There's a lot of people also that are financially in difficulty, and therefore cannot necessarily get out and say, buy tickets,” King added.

“When we say buy tickets, yes, it's a good idea to go to shows, theatre, etc., to get out or go to restaurants. But you can also go to a library, go to a museum, get involved in different possibilities, try new hobbies, get to know different people in different ways for different reasons.”

Expert recommendation options are to get outdoors, volunteer and try new activities to raise your energy levels.

“Always look to what could bring you some joy. What could bring something fresh, what could be revitalizing you,” King said. “Staying interested, fascinating, staying curious, they're big things that can help you through a depressive period of time.”

King recommends exercise, laughter and acupuncture, or acupressure, as three healthy and pleasant ways to gain endorphins.

“If you think about laughter, for instance, instead of going to bed with the negative news on to watch comedy shows will be a good way so that your system is lifted, your feelings lightened up. And that's what we need to do. Get above the clouds, both literally and figuratively, in many different ways, or whatever ways we can given our limitations.”

Alongside that, King recommends using medications and counselling services to help.

“We are our own best observers. If you look at the independent expert observer part of us and it says to us, I am at a point where this is too much, life is becoming overwhelming, or I'm feeling indifferent, or depressed or suicidal. Those are times definitely to reach out, or when you're suicidal it's hard to reach out. I get that. But I'm saying my hope would be people would recognize steps along the way.”

While mental health issues are highlighted more than ever, stigmatization still exists.

“We're always going to be at some level judgmental. But it's nice to see that people are recognizing even addictions now, thank goodness, and mental health issues as medical issues. There are so many of them, and a lot of people are in great distress. So you've got stress and anxiety, depression, that can build and build,” King said.

"My hope would be that anyone who is dealing with these types of issues would connect with a local social service, and that could include ourselves here at Pathways.

“It does take some strength and courage to reach out but once you've done that, most people say ‘Thank goodness I did’ because sometimes it's just expressing yourself rather than repressing the self and the feelings that go along with that.”

Help is available, call 1-800-SUICIDE at 1-800-784-2433 any time of the day or night if you or someone you know need someone to talk to about suicidal thoughts or ideas.

To connect with Pathways, visit their website here for more information.

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