Prolonged extreme cold could be taking a toll on your mental health

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Prolonged extreme cold could be taking a toll on your mental health: expert
WATCH ABOVE: Extreme cold weather has gripped the province for the majority of the winter. While Saskatchewan residents are familiar with frigid temperatures, the prolonged cold can take it's toll on your mental well-being. Marney Blunt reports – Feb 12, 2018

Extreme cold has gripped Saskatchewan for most of the winter, and it may be taking its toll on your mental health.

The brutally cold temperatures, less sunlight, less time spent outdoors and extra effort to get out of the house are factors that can be detrimental to your mental health.

“I think the main effect of a cold winter is isolation. People are less likely to go out, they don’t plan activities as much,” Canadian Mental Health Association Saskatchewan archivist Jayne Whyte said.

Whyte says she has also experienced living with long-term mental illness and knows that frigid weather than have major impacts on your mental and physical health.

“Our breathing is so connected to our mental health that when you can’t catch your breath in the cold weather, anxiety does rise,” Whyte said. “I think the other thing is that anytime we don’t feel in control, it’s a detriment to our mental health, and of course we can’t control the weather.”

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“The physical energy when someone is depressed and sad, anything that takes extra energy increases the difficulty of doing whatever needs to be done,” she added. “All those things that sort of give our life interest and meaning and hope, become much more difficult. So cold weather is out of our control, and yet it’s always affecting the way we live.”

Whyte says the best way to keep the winter blues away is socialization, and if you can’t leave the house, keep in touch with friends and family via phone or social media.

The prolonged cold can also be trying for parents at home with young children, a reason some parents attend programs at the Early Years Family Centre with their children.

“It just drags on and it’s hard to want to get outside or want to get doing things, and you kind of get stuck in a rut or feel isolated,” Early Years Family Centre coordinator Monica Totton said.

On Monday, several parents took their toddler out to the music therapy program at the centre. Totton says getting involved with programs and getting out of the house can help the mental well-being of parents and their children.

“Probably one of the big things is just a change in environment, changing your mindset so you have different things to do,” Totton said. “Getting out of the house is probably a big one. I know it’s a struggle sometimes to get those kids dressed up and things but when you have a warm inviting place to go, sometimes that’s a good option.”

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The seniors at College Park Retirement Residence also know how to beat the winter blues. The facility offers several programs to keep seniors in good shape physically and mentally.

One of those is laughter yoga, where the seniors take part in movement and breathing exercises.

“(We) use the breathing part of yoga,” laughter yoga teacher Betty Shorten said. “We laugh for no reason. We take our adult body and throw it way out in the hall and do kid-like things in here and laugh for no reason.”

The 81-year-old has been teaching laughter yoga for 10 years. She says it helps her keep in good shape, and has helped her get through tough times in life.

“When I first got into laughter yoga, my mother had Alzheimer’s, my sister was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and my husband had cancer. So there was nothing to laugh about, so I laughed for no reason.”

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