I can always tell when autumn hits even before all the leaves are off the trees. That’s usually when I see a rise in appointments and referrals for patients who are feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or their teenage kids are experiencing Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. While we’re pretty fortunate to live in the top five places in Canada for the highest number of sunny days per year, the combination of cold weather and early darkness can be the perfect storm for depression, excessive sleepiness, sluggish energy, anxiety and weight gain.
Anxiety is a painful experience. The heightened feeling of stress, worry, nervousness and fear can be relentless and overwhelming. Although each child or adult has a unique experience of anxiety, there are some commonalities. For young people, school is often a source of anxiety. The beginning of a new school year or a transition, such as from home to elementary school, from elementary school to junior high school, from junior high school to senior high school or from senior high school to post-secondary school, typically are points of increased stress.
The words ‘back to school’ often bring up a range of emotions for children: excitement to reunite with friends and share stories about the summer months, worry about the upcoming academic challenges and sadness that the summer is over. When a child or teen has experienced the death of a loved one, the thought of going back to school may take on an entirely new meaning.
My youngest daughter has long been a frequent visitor to the school nurse (tummy aches). And to the First-Aid box in our hall closet (microscopic cuts). And if a little friend comes down with an intriguing ailment (walking pneumonia was the latest one), my daughter is likely to limp dramatically and claim that she might have it too.
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