December 26, 2015
Ted: We are entering a time of the year that is often times referred to as the SAD season; SAD meaning Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here to discuss that and other issues at hand Dr. Jesse Hanson who has a Masters in clinical Psychology. Thank you Dr. for joining us.
Jesse: Hello Ted, thanks for having me.
Ted: Good to chat with you. Let’s talk a little bit about seasonal affective disorder. Is this something relatively new or something we have known for a long time?
Jesse: I think clinically speaking its relatively new. 5 to 7 years, it’s just come into the DSM a couple versions ago, you know I but I think we’ve all known it in our heart, in our body. Especially those of us live in cultures and climates where the grey weather does come in, you know.
Ted: And is in fact just because it is dark? Or does it have something to do with the fact that there is a loss or shortage of vitamin D, which is provided by the sun?
“I mean definitely the vitamin D impacts it, the dark impacts it more psychologically”
Jesse: Both, both, I mean definitely the vitamin D impacts it, the dark impacts it more psychologically. Um, the vitamin D obviously more on the physiological level. And also I think to the temperature, just the drive to be inside and be more reclusive, it can often bring a person to actually have to face what might be sitting there during the warmer times of the year as well but there so much easier distractions then.
Ted: How common is this?
Jesse: Well clinically speaking if you look at a lot of the northwest corner of Vancouver, up in that area as well as somewhat here in Toronto. You can definitely see statistically speaking it is not as common in places like southern California where it is sunnier. It’s not to say that people don’t get sad there, it’s just you don’t notice the rise around this time of year.
Ted: Mm Hmm, and what is the best way to deal with it? I realize there’s physically you can take the vitamin D tablets?
Jesse: yeah, that’s an easy obvious one on the physical side. One of the greatest books I ever read in the beginning days of my trainings was called staying healthy with the seasons and it was the idea that, ah you know, not to say to embellish the sadness but to mentally prepare before it comes to recognize that okay this time of the year this is going to be happening what do I need to do to help support myself; whether that looks like a therapy session or a yoga class, or just getting out and playing an indoor soccer league instead of hibernating all winter; but having an awareness around it, recognizing that this is something that is both physiological and psychological; its gonna happen whether people want it to or not but if we except that there’s more ways to work with it or a higher likelihood that we don’t have to become so sad.
Ted: So would it be a good idea for those people who do suffer from SAD to illuminate their house more then they normally would?
Jesse: Yes, easier said than done but I think we will get into this to I mean we want to talk about new years’ resolutions, it’s the same theme of our words and our intentions versus actually executing. I think the challenge for someone that might actually be experiencing SAD is that they would tell you the same thing, that they would know Ted, “oh I just need to get out of my house more” but when it comes to that morning or that afternoon or whatever it is the sadness of SAD makes it even harder to get out of the house which is why I suggest support you know whether that’s of a loved one or more professionally supported, but recognizing that okay I’m susceptible to SAD let me take these extra steps in the late summer, early fall a while before that emotional mood has set in with the colder weather.
Ted: Let’s talk now about new years’ resolutions.
Ted: Um, sometimes I wonder if they’re a really bad idea. (Jesse Laughs) Especially this time of year, it is a really stressful time of year. You are coming off Christmas and shopping and buying and family and etc. and New Year. Is this a good idea or not?
Jesse: You know I don’t want to put black or white answer on it, I completely hear your concerns and agree it sets up a lot of hope and expectations that is often followed by shame and guilt; X number of days, weeks, months down the road, but I agree with you, it’s ironic that this time of the year is everything about family and giving and also receiving in that light but it is also the time if you look statistically it’s a time where alcoholism and substance abuse rise more than any other time, its times where more of the underlying family drama comes to the surface because everyone is together. So its I do agree with you there it’s almost like a twistedness to it; or a “Why do I have to set these resolutions I am probably not going to make them happen anyways.” But I mean ultimately yeah I would if I had a choice which I guess I do, I would vote towards optimism, towards the idea of you know it’s a time of year that has grown in our culture where we do look at what we like to make different about ourselves and you know if we look in that optimistic glass half full then it’s like this time of the year let’s figure out how do we actually make these attainable, how do we make these reasonable, how do we actually make it so I don’t have to feel bad about not fulfilling my resolutions a little bit down the road.
Ted: Mm Hmm, this has been a very difficult time globally in terms of terrorist attacks and hurricanes, tornado’s. I mean it just ripped up the southern part of the United States. It causes a lot of anxiety in people, how do you suggest that they deal with that?
Jesse: Yeah, the myriad of things from the less severe, to the more severe; the less severe you know simple things such as meditation, exercise, healthy eating, healthy life style, things that does affect and does help at a certain level. I think for most of us, the majority of us and where we’re at now, you know it may need to look like some level of professional help whether that is a therapist or a mindfulness teacher; but the bottom line is if anxiety for any of us, whatever part of the world we’re in if anxiety isn’t treated or addressed or at least acknowledged it does continue to grow and fester and it can become more serious from anything from a panic disorder all the way now to there is an interesting new amount of neuroscience Ted about disease the Etiology, the correlation, the emotional and stress based correlations between our day to day lives and stress levels alongside with anything as extreme as cancer to Crohn’s disease to all these things being so impacted by stress.
Ted: Yeah, I’m not asking you to answer, I know it’s a tough question you can’t say “well do this and do that and everything will be fine.” Obviously every bodies emotional level, every bodies level of anxiety and concern are different, which is why you need to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist then to deal with them in your own.
“The word, phrase is ‘delicious discomfort’ and the idea behind that is looking for new year’s resolutions or goals that are just outside our comfort zone, not so far out and also not so far in.”
Jesse: Yeah, I mean that is ultimately the best case scenario; I realize it’s still not the most common way of dealing with things right now and I think that there is a rise in consciousness, a rise in awareness around taking care of our mental health even if we’ve never been diagnosed with anything and are not on any type of prescription medication, it’s a time in human history where success is based on productivity and functionality within society; but there’s a lot of ah secret pain and stressors behind the scenes.
On the positive Ted I did have one idea about this whole new year’s resolution thing I want to share with you which is you know the words that there is a word phrase that I would like to introduce as well as a bigger concept. The word, phrase is ‘delicious discomfort’ and the idea behind that is looking for new year’s resolutions or goals that are just outside our comfort zone, not so far out and also not so far in. So I call it delicious discomfort, it’s an imagining of stretching the box that we live in just a little bit, that speaks to the sustainability or to hopefully being able to achieve the goal. The other one is also in terms of how do we look at 2016 as a year where hopefully collectively as a culture that there could be more of an awareness and an appreciation of mental health or taking care of ourselves psychologically and emotionally.
I would be curious and I would ask anyone that is listening to be curious about the origins of their new year’s resolution; and what I mean is for example a common one is to lose weight, to get back in shape, to get to the gym of some sort. It’s easy to say I want to go to the gym because I want to lose weight but if we look at that a little deeper to realize well this is actually an attempt and an act of self-love and even if three weeks, four weeks, two months down the road I’m not able to keep on it by going to the gym five days a week, or three days a week as I start to see that fall off the common thing I see with people start to go into self-blame, we kind of already mentioned this already the shame cycle. If we can make our resolution now at this time of year based around for example acts of self-love rather than just solely saying I have to get to the gym five days a week and all intentions and hope that we keep that but if that doesn’t stick if we start to blame ourselves or get mad at ourselves then we are going against the new year’s resolution; where it could be like “well I’m not getting to the gym as much but now I’m able to get to a meditation class or now I am able to spend one extra night a week with my kids.” Whatever the person’s life is that they keep having the courage and keep having the flexibility to redefine their resolution as the spring comes and hopefully then the summer. We usually forget about our resolutions by the summer. (laughing)
Ted: You can be reached at the Helix Healthcare Group?
Jesse: https://helixhealthcaregroup.com is our main website yes.
Ted: Okay I want to thank you very much for your time, I wish you the best in 2016
Jesse: Thank you Ted, all the best to you too.
Ted: That’s Dr. Jesse Hanson