Northern BC residents are bracing for what might be one of the most challenging winters in recent memory.

On top of the cold weather we are accustomed to, the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic remains a huge concern and could lead to higher levels of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Mary Lu Spagrud with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Prince George told Vista Radio the unknown has led to fear.

“So when we don’t know when we are going back to work when we don’t know when the next paycheque is coming in when we don’t know if we are going to return to normal or if we ever return to that – it leads to a lot of feelings of fear and fear is the enemy of reason.”

“A lot of our identity is very much rooted in our jobs and occupations and there may be a sense of loss there or doing the sorts of things that we are able to do or are struggling to pay bills.”

Spagrud added it’s crucial residents carry out the same positive outlook on heading outdoors during the winter months as they did in the summer.

“In the summertime, we talked about getting outdoors and doing things outside. We need to keep that attitude going into the wintertime. We are lucky here in the north where we can buy that winter coat and go out for a walk with friends or hold a bonfire in a backyard.”

“We talk about support systems, we talk about getting out and socializing with people and that sense of belonging, that sense of community and by having the smaller restrictions that have greatly reduced those opportunities so I think as we move into the wintertime it’s about expanding our horizons.”

The best thing anyone can do if you suspect someone is suffering from SAD is to reach out and ask questions.

“Ask how are you doing? When was the last time you got out? When was the last time you connected with people and how is your mood?. Also, ask more specific questions and we talk about gut feelings a lot, we talk about some of our education workshops so what are some of those things we can do when our gut is telling us that something is off about somebody else,” added Spagrud.

She also mentioned a couple of different remedies people can try to ease their anxiety.

“Having things like the sad lamps with the mood lamps, we are talking 10 to 30 minutes a day so we are not changing all the lightbulbs in our house but also having the lamp on your desk and just sitting under that for a few days can naturally produce that Vitamin D in your body.”

“We have online courses that are being done for free through the CMHA like Living Life to the Full, which is a 12-hour course.”

Spagrud mentioned many people might be suffering from increased anxiety due to the second wave and that the majority of residents complied with what the health experts suggested but the virus has come back.