The winter blues of Revel-soak

John Devitt

Rain, rain, go away, and come again some other day!

Another rainy month is upon us!  Perchance we thought the monsoons of June (popularly known here in Revelstoke as “Mon-June”) were well and truly behind us.   Despite all the beautiful fall whether, we knew deep inside the fall rains were coming.  Let us not deny we all enjoy seeing the sky from time to time, maybe even daily.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  However, to live in Revelstoke means living with the rain that ultimately brings the snow we adore so much.

Love of snow aside for a moment, we cannot refute that late October and November are indeed the dreariest of months to live in Revelstoke.  Anyone who tells you they love the rain and lack of visible sky for 6 weeks is simply fooling himself or herself.  Yes, as Revelstokians we love snow, but as human beings we worship, and rely, on daylight much more.  With clouds pressing down on us for weeks and weeks, that reliance is tested and numerous people feel the consequences.

While the acronym can definitely cause some chuckles, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, seriously limits a person’s ability to enjoy life.  It is a fact that our bodies need daylight to function and while not as drastic as if you were a Chilean miner, the shorter days and lack of daylight this time of year in Revelstoke will impact your health and wellbeing.  Ultraviolet B radiation penetrates skin and helps the body produce Vitamin D.  The lack of Vitamin D from daylight and the resulting impacts of SAD can affect people who have normal mental health throughout the year but will experience depressive symptoms in the winter.  For those folks, the shortening of the days in autumn signify the beginning of a clinical depression that can last until spring.

Research from the UBC Centre for Mood Disorders indicate approximately 600,000 people in Canada suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, while the Canadian Mental Health Association points out that another 15% of the population have a more milder form of the disorder commonly referred to as ‘the winter blues.’

Symptoms can be similar to clinical depression or bipolar disorders and can be difficult to diagnose.  Occasionally, even thyroid problems can produce results that resemble seasonal affective disorder.  The only difference between these cases and seasonal affective disorder is that symptoms of SAD will disappear come springtime, and have no explanation for occurrence other than weather.  Some of these symptoms include; feelings of anxiety or despair, avoidance of social situations, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, decreased energy, and weight gain.  Granted, some of these symptoms sound like the results of too much holiday eating, but it does go deeper than that.

In a 2008 in depth report by the CBC, April Scott-Clarke speaks to a woman suffering from seasonal affective disorder.  Jennifer Hicks explains what it’s like to feel the way she does “When the daylight is around, I have energy.  When [the sun] goes or it’s cloudier, everything becomes more difficult….It’s harder to smile.  It takes more effort and doesn’t feel genuine… I have a ‘why bother’ attitude.  It’s always there.  It’s like a dreadful, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach from October to March.”  (

Severe cases of seasonal affective disorder can be treated with light therapy, medication and cognitive behaviour therapy, though it is strongly advised to seek assessment from a mental health professional before trying any of these treatments.

For milder cases the best thing to do is simply get outside!  Even on cloudy days, there are still UV rays getting through to your skin.  Go for a walk, a wet bike ride, or come wintertime, get out and enjoy the snow.  You don’t need to be a skier, snowboarder or snowmobiler.  You could simply be a snow fort architect or volunteer dog walker.  Exercise and physical activity is key to fighting the blues.  Go for a swim, join the squash club, or do a whole bunch of jumping jacks in your office between appointments at work.

Increasing your activity level and monitoring your diet are the most tried and true methods to combat depression.  Move your body, drink lots of water and eat your vegetables.  Whatever you do, do not forget the contagious nature of a smile.

For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression visit the following links:

Shuswap-Revelstoke Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division:

Counselling and Consultation at Community Connections Revelstoke:

Canadian Mental Health Association: