Reduce Stress and Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder [Interview][Transcript]

sandra_reich_georgia_dow_stress_managementGuests: Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Sandra Reich, M.Ed, is the founder and clinical director of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. For the past eight years, she and a team of 13 therapists have taken a holistic and eclectic approach to treat clients with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy base. She has successfully treated many cases of anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship issues, co-dependency and other compulsive behaviors.
Georgia Dow, MA, has over 20 years of experience in teaching and counseling. With degrees in Psychology and Education, a Master’s degree with Distinction in Art Therapy, she specializes in treating anxiety and stress management for both children and adults. Dow earned a Masters in Art Therapy with Distinction from Concordia University. She also holds a B.A. with distinction from Concordia University and a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from McGill University.

Segment overview: Sandra Reich, M.ED., and Georgia Dow, MA, clinical director and psychotherapist, respectively of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression share some tips that can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder and ways to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives.


Health Professional Radio – Stress Management

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us here today. The calendar officially tells us that its fall which means that our days are getting shorter and we’re getting less sunlight each day. Now without knowing it, lots of people struggle silently with the form of depression known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Our guest in studio is Sandra Reich, she’s the founder and clinical director of the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. Also the co-producer of a series of ground breaking DVDs dealing with anxiety and stress. She’s with us today in studio, thank you for coming in Sandra.

Sandra Reich: Thank you so much for having me Neil.

N: I’ve never personally heard of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Explain to our listeners what Seasonal Affective Disorder is.

S: Well the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter sometimes causes a winter-onset of these feelings. It’s a decrease in sunlight that basically disrupts your internal clock and sometimes lowers your serotonin which our feel-good neurotransmitter. And therefore, our mood is affected as well as our energy level.

N: If you discover that someone’s suffering from SAD, what are the symptoms? How do you diagnose that someone suffering from SAD and not some other type of depression?

S: Well it’s tricky because the symptoms mimic depression so their tiredness, fatigue, weakened immune system, a lack of concentration, sometimes over-eating particularly carbohydrates, sometimes alcohol or drug-abuse, guilt, worry feelings, those kinds of things. So to come to your question, is where you have to be suspicious is if it keeps happening right around this time of year and seems to get better in the spring or summer, it’s most likely SAD and not depression. If it’s happening throughout the year, you probably looking at a depression.

N: If someone’s suffering from SAD, what can we do so that SAD doesn’t affect our lives? Because if you didn’t know that you had it and you thought you’re just having winter time blues and now you discover, “Hey, maybe I don’t have to have winter time blues.” What can we do to alleviate this?

S: Oh well there’s a lot we can do and first and foremost, thank you for having us on because I think that getting this information out is so important. So one of the things that we can do, get something called the light box and they exists like really everywhere and I’ve seen them even at Cosco. What they do is they give off light that imitates the sun and that really almost immediately reduces the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sunlight goes into the eyes, so you put it literally on your desk, it goes in your eyes and the light stimulates your body’s circadian rhythm. So that’s one thing you can do and another thing is get up in the morning and get out in the morning sunshine and the more exposure to natural light, the better. And of course our basic habits of food, sleep and exercise always necessary to combat against depression, anxiety and definitely SAD.

N: Say if a person is living their life with SAD, they don’t know it and they become an addict or an alcoholic for one reason or another. Is SAD made more severe by those conditions and if one is suffering from either of those conditions or both, is SAD even treatable?

S: Okay, well a great question. First of all, the problem is, is that we turn to substances such as alcohol or even food when we’re feeling down but alcohol is a depressant. So in fact, it starts a vicious circle because you’re already down and now you’re gonna get more down. So it makes it more difficult but it doesn’t mean that it’s not treatable but now we have a new problem we have to treat which is if you become addicted to the alcohol. So it’s understandable, it’s a bit of a slippery slope, you’re feeling bad so you take something to feel better but you have to pay attention, you have to be curious. If you’re taking something that’s going to lower your energy or lower your mood and again alcohol, smoking weed, these kinds of things are depressants, you’re not gonna feel better. If you’re eating carbohydrates, it feels good while you’re eating them but then you’re gonna be even more lethargic. So I think it comes back to the fact that we have to look at that we want to get better or do we wanna keep just bringing ourselves further and further down? So sometimes it’s a good friend or a family member that says, “Hey, wait a second, I see you’re falling. Can we do something to get you out of this?” and get them outside, moving their body, eating breakfast and so on and so forth.

N: You’re the founder of and the clinical director of the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. When the clients come in to your facility and you realized that they’re suffering from SAD and not some other type of depression or an addiction to something or another, what do you tell them as far as the levels of stress in their life, if they’re talking to you and you noticed that they’ve got this huge amount of stress? Do you deal with the stress first and then start talking about SAD?

S: Well we do them at the same time and I think that’s again a really good question because the treatments for the stress or the anxiety and the treatment for SAD is the same. Because really we should always be doing the stress management techniques so that if we again go back to basic stress management techniques they happen to be the very basics are making sure you eat, making sure you sleep, and making sure you move your body. So if we start with those basics and we look at SAD those are also the things we need to do for SAD, so the good news is we don’t need to be diverting to too much. We’ve got to always make sure that even people like who don’t suffer SAD, you and I, I don’t think you’re suffering SAD, I’m not suffering SAD. We need to have a good stress management techniques. We live in a crazy world, with lots to take care of, so we need to have good, we’re only as good as our strategies and that’s a lot of how we start of the videos is to make sure that people had access to what are the strategies to combat anxiety and depression and the susceptibility to those problems.

N: Well let’s talk about a couple of those strategies. For someone who maybe struggling specifically with SAD, we talked about nutrition and exercise and sunlight and getting out. But some of the things that aren’t the basics, talk about something that as a person can latch onto that maybe isn’t readily available as far as a technique.

S: Okay, well first of all I will reiterate that with SAD in particularly they need to go get that light box. So they’re easy to find on the internet so that’s step number 1. The other thing is that, once we start to flip into depression or SAD is we start to start to have what’s called distorted thoughts. So we start to say things to ourselves like, ‘I should not be sleeping so much, I should be accomplishing more.’ And we start to talk to ourselves in a very negative way. So one of the strategies is to challenge those distorted thoughts and to start to talk to yourself more like a best friend in a compassionate way, ‘It would be better if I’m not sleeping so much, let me see if I can try today to ford to that light box.’ Because when you’re feeling depressed you’re not very motivated to do things. So you have to take things in small increments and definitely encourage yourself, step by step incorporating a good breathing strategy, a good relaxation strategy. These are skills that you could learn, we teach them, you can learn them and start to incorporate them into your life and then say to yourself, “Great job!” It may sound very simplistic but I’ll tell you, the treatments for these things, the basic treatment if you’re in big, big trouble, obviously, go to your doctor, we don’t want to say not to go to your doctor. But if you’re starting to feel a little lethargic, a really great thing is to start your strategies right away, we’re only as good as our last strategy.

N: You know the holidays, they’re in the fall. Kids, it’s a great time. Halloween and Thanksgiving, Grandma’s House, and then you’ve got Christmas. Oh my goodness! And if you’ve got a couple of birthdays in there, all the better. Do you ever see symptoms of SAD in children and if so how do you explain to them that you don’t have to be as depressed as you are because you’re suffering from a disorder and it’s not just because you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas.

S: Well the research shows us that children, they could get depressed but SAD shows up more between the ages of 15 and 55 so let’s first clarify that. But yes, children are susceptible to depression and anxiety at this time of year exactly for what you’re talking about is that the expectations of the holidays are very high, it plays a real mind game on all of us because we see so many people supposedly being so happy, we watch commercials on T.V. everyday looks like they’re loving and wonderful and there’s almost nowhere to go but down. So what we have to do is we also have to remind ourselves that we tend to compare only upwards, we need to compare also downwards, and to be a little bit more realistic in our expectations. So part of it is to enjoy Christmas, enjoy the holidays, remember that it’s almost clichéd but external gratification is not really that linked with happiness. Internal gratification is linked with happiness so we’ve got to be okay with ourselves.

N: You’ve been listening in the Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Sandra Reich, founder and clinical director of the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. She’s been in studio with us talking about SAD. It’s been great having you in the studio today with us Sandra.

S: Thank you so much for having me.

N: Thank You. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.


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