Before coming to Canada, I knew that seasonal changes would affect what I would wear. What I didn’t know was that it would affect my health, mood, and even my disposition! My first winter was characterized with extended sleep, sluggishness, and constant bouts of the flu. Then, as it shifted to spring and summer, sleeping became a problem because of the extended hours of daylight.
A disclaimer: Not everyone is affected the same way by seasonal changes. Some will find it easy; others will not. But for a lot of newcomers, coping is made harder because some are also dealing with a rough job search, the loss of the support of close friends and family, or working in their first survival job.
While you can’t control the changing of the seasons, you can control some elements around you to make it easier to cope. Here are a few suggestions:
Adjust indoor temperature
Slowly ease into each season by adjusting your thermostat. Moving from fall into winter, you may begin at your desired high temperature. As you and your family acclimatize to the cold, you can lower the temperature each week, both to feel comfortable and save on heating bills. Most Canadian households keep their average home temperature at 20 °C and 22 °C during day time (during heating season) when most members of the family are at home and awake. They adjust it to between 16°C and 18°C at night when household members are asleep. Read Winter hacks every Manitoban should know for more tips on preparing yourself and your home for winter.
Watch out for joint pains and the flu
Doctors have found that changes in humidity and barometric pressure can affect those with chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis or MS. They can feel some joint pains and spasms. People with such ailments should consult their doctor. They may need additional vitamin prescriptions. The doctor can also suggest proper home temperature and the right stretching exercises. Other ailments to watch out for are flu and allergies in the fall and spring and heat stroke in summer. Avail of free flu shots and take necessary precautions like avoiding extended exposure to the elements or heat. The great thing is that in Canada, consulting your doctor is easy and it’s free. If you don’t feel well, ask the help of a professional.
Eat in season
Proper nutrition is another important element that can save you from the negative effects of seasonal change. While fast food and chips (and other junkfood) are easy to get, don’t give in to the temptation. Fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables are available in Manitoba all year round. They are cheaper, can help lift up your mood and strengthen your immunity. For example, root vegetables and squashes are plentiful in winter and can provide Vitamin D (especially helpful when you don’t get much sun). Leafy greens and bell peppers in spring are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants. Not only do these strengthen your immunity, they also protect you from a host of diseases.
Sometimes, your favorite dish is all you need to lift your spirits up. The great thing is that you may be able to cook it here. Manitoba has more than 70 specialty food stores carrying items from many parts of the world. If you are in Winnipeg, download this pamphlet to know where to go: Where to buy newcomer traditional food in Winnipeg.
One cannot stress the importance of exercise enough. Being cooped up at home, inactive, will make it harder for you to cope. Exercise activates endorphins which can naturally lift up your mood. Some people jog or walk outside even in winter. But if this is too much for you, try indoor exercises. There are a lot of YouTube videos you can follow. You can also sign up for Zumba or aerobics classes at your nearest community centre. Join a gym and try hot yoga. Or go the nearest mall and walk around (you don’t have to buy anything!).
This may be caused by lack of sleep. For example, your sleep patterns may be disrupted when the season changes from spring to summer. Early bedtimes can be hard when there’s still light out at 9 p.m. (sun sets at around 10:00 p.m. in the summer in Manitoba). In winter, on the other hand, there is less light. This can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression. To help you cope, here are some suggestions:
- Shine the light. If you feel you might have SAD, try light therapy (check with your doctor first). You can even try them out at libraries all over Winnipeg. Find out about them here: Light therapy lamps in libraries.
- Get into meaningful activities Having a variety of activities may help you wind down earlier in a day and not mind the late sunset. Get into arts and crafts, cooking or any other activity you like. Volunteer and be active in your community or at church. This will lessen your stress.
- Talk to other newcomers Attend workshops and meet other newcomers.Share your experiences. Ask them how they are coping. You can get great tips from them. Want to meet other people without getting out of the house? Join our virtual Coffee Chats on Skype. Not only will you learn more about Manitoba, but you’ll also improve your English and meet new friends.
Most of all, be gentle with yourself. It takes time to adjust because this is a major change. Don’t rush into things. The more you stress, the more harm it will cause your body.
Sources: Controlling the temperature in Canadian homes, Statistics Canada; 10 ways to deal with change of season and time, Organic excellence blog; and The weather: Wreaking havoc on health, Elizabeth Heubeck, Web MD. All accessed October 26, 2018.
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