Adapting to Canadian weather and Seasonal Affective Disorder
By: Callum Denault
Published on: August 22, 2022
Ever feel happy and energetic during the summer, only to feel sad and tired in winter? Do you feel the most peaceful during colder months of the year and find it hard to stay motivated as the temperature rises? It could be that you find it hard to adapt to the changing seasons. It is also possible that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Either way, this is a normal problem to have and there are ways to deal with it.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a type of depression that begins and ends roughly the same time every year.
Symptoms of SAD include feeling sad or lifeless most days, losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, having little energy, sleeping too much, or feeling hopeless. Fall and winter SAD may also involve oversleeping and diet changes that can result in weight gain. Spring and summer SAD may cause trouble sleeping and a diminished appetite that may lead to weight loss.
Even if you do not have SAD, not being well prepared for noticeably hot or cold weather is enough to make anyone uncomfortable. However, if you feel down for long periods of time, it is recommended you speak to a doctor. SAD can be treated with therapy and/or medication.
Studies have shown there is a correlation between SAD and a person’s ethnicity and their country of birth, along with other factors like their age, drinking/smoking habits, and overall health. Essentially, if your mood changes according to the weather, it may be partially due to factors out of your control. There are also some indications that resistance to SAD has a genetic component for people from certain climates. For instance, descendants of Icelandic people living in Canada have lower rates of SAD than average.
Nurses who travel a lot for their job are also at risk of developing SAD due to feeling homesick, adapting to changing time zones, along with struggling to make friends and feel comfortable in a new community. These sources of stress may also be experienced by a newcomer who is still adjusting to the country they moved to.
Dangers of extreme weather
BBC News reports that in 2018, 28 million people were internally displaced, meaning they had to leave their homes and find refuge somewhere else inside their country. 10.8 million people were displaced because of human conflict, while 17.2 million were displaced due to disasters. These disasters include earthquakes and extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and storms.
According to BBC, “double vulnerability” refers to people who are displaced for one reason—such as an armed conflict—and are at risk of being displaced yet again because of extreme weather. Temporary camps for displaced people in parts of Africa and Asia have been affected by extreme weather, which creates significant challenges for the humanitarian agencies operating there. In some cases, the camps have to be run longer than is planned. This is because sometimes people feel no reason to return to their homeland if extreme weather made that part of the world less liveable.
The Canadian government has advice on how to prepare for and safely get through various emergencies, including natural disasters such as avalanches, hurricanes, and wildfires. The bottom of this webpage also links to various guides on planning for emergencies, including tips on making emergency kits with food and/or medical supplies. Some of the advice—such as staying up to date on weather alerts for your local area—apply all over the world.
However, if you are living or staying outside Canada, it would be ideal to find resources from your country’s government to prepare for an incoming weather event.
Tips on dealing with summer weather
Keeping cool in hot weather is important, especially with global warming, meaning that summers may soon be “too hot for humans” to work in. Millions of people around the world are at risk of suffering from heat stress, which is when the body is unable to cool itself down and a person’s temperature rises to dangerous levels. If the air is too humid for sweat to evaporate, this can lead to heat stress.
Heat stress is more common in tropical parts of the world. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers were at high risk of heat stress because they had to wear several layers of protective gear during work, and hospitals turned off air conditioning to keep the virus from spreading. This is an example of how certain circumstances at work can make it hard for workers to safely cool down.
When your core temperature rises too high, you risk having your internal organs shut down, which can be fatal.
You can deal with heat stress by drinking lots of water and other hydrating fluids, staying in cool places, and taking breaks when working. The American Department of Labor said workers are more likely to experience heat stress if they either raise their body temperature working physically, or if they work in a hot environment, such as inside factories and industrial plants. In Canada, some of the most common jobs newcomers take are in the manufacturing, transportation, warehouse, and technical fields. This overlaps with the type of work that might put employees at risk of overheating.
The American government suggested workers spread out physical labour over more people to reduce stress on a given person and reschedule hot jobs for a cooler time of day. It was also recommended workers drink an average of one cup of fluid every 20 minutes along with some salt, and that employees have somewhere air conditioned to cool off and rest.
Tips on dealing with winter weather
It may not be a surprise considering this country is somewhat infamous for its long, cold winters, but a study involving 600 newcomers found 31 per cent of them named the frigid weather as the thing they liked least about Canada. It was also found newcomers tend to not dress warm enough for cold weather, and it is recommended people who are new to Canada buy clothes early on before temperatures start to drop.
Even in milder temperatures above zero degrees Celsius, it is still recommended adults wear gloves or mittens, avoid open toed shoes, and carry a scarf and hat in their bag in case they decide to wear it. On days when the temperature is below zero degrees and/or there is a lot of snow, people should wear multiple, heavy layers and waterproof knee-high boots. Warm socks and warm underwear, such as stockings, are also recommended. A tip for children is to put a plastic bag in their boots under their socks to help keep water out.
Choosing boots rated for the temperature of your region is important, since wearing boots that are too warm will leave you with sweaty, damp feet. If you drive, make sure you have winter tires and a car brush to keep your vehicle safe in icy, snowy conditions. See our article for other tips on how to live life in Canadian winter, along with ideas for fun activities like tobogganing!
Global News gave hyperlinks to various charities—most of which are in Calgary—that accept donations of warm clothing to deliver them to people in need. These include Project Warmth, Women in Need Society, The Calgary Drop-In Centre, Walk-In Closet (Making Changes Association), and Jacket Racket.
BlogTO listed several organizations in Toronto where people can donate their spare warm clothing to help people in need.
The Salvation Army asks people find their local Salvation Army if they are looking to either receive donations of warm clothing or give away winter clothes.