Speaking Out: Moving from SAD to glad with faith

By  Jacob Stocking, Youth Speak News
  • December 22, 2020

As we move into the winter months, we notice the drastic reduction in the number of daylight hours. Each of us is almost guaranteed to have heard that common refrain: “It gets dark so early now!”

Indeed, those who say so don’t exaggerate.

According to a thematic map created by Alaska climatologist Brian Brettschneider, the most southern parts of Canada can expect a mere nine hours of sunlight on the winter solstice each year. Some northern regions of the country can experience entire days or even weeks without sun over the winter.

Thanks to this lack of light, many people suffer from a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This aptly named ailment is caused by drastic changes in sunlight exposure. It can significantly disrupt sleeping patterns while causing large fluctuations in temperament.

COVID-19 will make these fluctuations much worse. In an October interview with the CBC, University of Ottawa psychology professor Tim Aubry warns of the dangers caused by limited social interaction. He calls it “one of the biggest risk factors to developing mental health problems” and emphasizes the importance of finding other ways to socialize during the pandemic.  

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, people usually experience their first episode of seasonal depression in young adulthood. Teenagers have a much higher risk of developing this condition as their hormones are already imbalanced, making them more susceptible to the extreme mood changes associated with SAD. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto says symptoms of SAD include, but are not limited to, fatigue, poor appetite, a sense of hopelessness and disconnection from reality.  

While these symptoms are part of our physical being, they reflect the way we feel spiritually when isolated from God. He is the guiding light in our lives, so it is easy to become despondent and lose our way in times of darkness.

Experiencing this sense of disorientation is normal. However, we must take care to remember that God’s love for us still exists even when we cannot feel it — much like the way the sun still exists when we cannot see it at night.   

In addition to monitoring feelings of absence from God, we should also pay attention to the absence of vitamin D. If an individual lacks adequate exposure to sunlight they may develop this deficiency and experience symptoms such as fatigue and hopelessness.

While it is possible to fight these feelings by supplementing our physical diets with the missing vitamin, to enrich our spiritual diets we should also consider daily prayer and reflection.

Prayer is one of the most powerful actions we can take to strengthen the light of God inside us while alleviating the symptoms of SAD. 

Even sitting in silence with the Lord is beneficial because it allows us to let go of the racket of daily life. This noise often causes sacramental dullness and prevents us from feeling His presence.

We can also help others struggling with SAD by following the Gospel example of Matthew. Matthew 5:16 says “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”

In doing this we not only help our neighbour but also strengthen the light inside us. 

In these times of darkness, it is easy to lose sight of ourselves and feel disconnected from God. We must remember that He is always present in our lives and remain focused on that inextinguishable light inside the soul He has given us.

(Stocking, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Michael Power-St Joseph High School in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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