Winter Safety and Activities Workshop

On Tuesday November 21, the Ryerson Team ran their second workshop for parents, caregivers and children.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

 Photo by petrunjela/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by petrunjela/iStock / Getty Images

One of the topics concerned Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression linked to changes in seasons, notably in late fall-winter. A less well-known type affects some in the late spring and summer.


  • Depression, most of the day, every day

  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed

  • Low or no energy

  • Sleeping issues

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Sluggish and/or agitated more than usual

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt

  • Frequent thoughts of death or harm


  • Decrease in sunlight messes with body’s internal clock and levels of serotonin and melatonin which regulate mood and sleep patterns.

 Photo by RapidEye/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RapidEye/iStock / Getty Images

Women are more often affected than men as are younger people. Those suffering from bipolar disorder may suffer more severe symptoms. The further away you are from the equator, the higher the likelihood of being affected because of less sunlight. At it’s worst, SAD can cause social withdrawal, substance, anxiety or eating disorders and suicidal thoughts or behavior. Get help from your doctor or local mental health clinic, there are many treatments that can help you.


  • Treatments depend on the severity of SAD and whether there are other complications such as depression or bipolar disorder

  • Light therapy or antidepressants are commonly used


  • Get outside, even on cloudy days

  • If you can afford to do so, buy or rent and start using a light therapy box before symptoms start back in early fall

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five times per week

  • Social support is important. Stay involved with friends and activities


As the days get colder and shorter, it can make it harder and harder to stay active and perform self-care activities. Although it can be hard, being active is important during all seasons of the year. Regular exercise can improve well being and assist you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (Abeln et al., 2015). Doing aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming has been shown to increase positive mood and enhance a sense of well-being (Cramp & Bray, 2011)

Finding ways to be active indoors can be easy with a little creativity. These activities can be incorporated throughout your day to decrease feelings of stress or anxiety when trying to find time in your schedule. Doing activities during commercial breaks such as push-ups or sit-ups, workouts can be found online and be done in less than 20 minutes, and having dance parties can all be incorporated into your day to help increase your activity levels and enhance your sense of wellbeing.

You don’t need to be stuck indoors, being active outdoors, even when it is cold can be fun, if you dress and prepare accordingly! Looking at the weather, bringing snacks, and wearing clothing that is suited for the activities that you will be doing can help prevent cold injuries and enhance your time outdoors (Flatt, 2010).

Dressing for the Weather

Children cannot tell you that their cheeks are cold or in pain so it is important to check on them regularly when they are outside (Brown, Spiegel, & Boyle, 1983).

Tips for dressing for the weather:

 Photo by Jeka33/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Jeka33/iStock / Getty Images

  • Wearing multiple loose layers as opposed to one heavy layer  

  • Wearing moisture wicking fabrics close to your skin such as wool and polyesters

  • Layering wool or a fleece on top of the moisture wicking layer

  • Water and windproof outer layer is worn on top

  • Wearing mittens instead of gloves

  • Wearing balaclavas, a face mask that covers your whole face with mouth and eye holes. Some might know this as a “ski mask”. These helps protect the cheeks from the wind and cold since it is an area that often develops frostbite

  • Having properly fitting shoes

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Signs of frostbite are numbness and pain, if you start feeling these signs move into a warm area, add more layers, and move around to help prevent frostbite. If frostbite has happened, you might see white areas surrounded by red skin, and the skin will not be easily moved. If this has happened, you should seek medical assistance in rewarming the areas.  

Hypothermia, the second type of cold injury, occurs when body temperatures are below 36o C (Fudge, 2016). Signs of hypothermia are shivering, social withdrawal, pupil dilation (the black part of the eyes getting larger); when it is serious the ability to shiver is lost and unconsciousness can occur (Fudge, 2016). If hypothermia has occurred, and it is mild, meaning that they are still able to shiver and respond rewarm as soon as possible by changing wet clothes, providing more layers, and bringing into a warm space and provide warm drinks or soups. If it is more severe, where they are unable to shiver, are losing consciousness, or have lost consciousness seek immediate medical care.

Activities to do this Winter:

Distillery Christmas Market

o   You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy this cool market. It is a free market that offers speciality shops and foods along with a large Christmas tree and interesting light fixtures.

o   Located in the Distillery District, it is free during the weekdays and Fridays before 5:00pm. It is running from November 16th- December 23rd

Skating at Nathan Phillip or Ryerson University

o   Nathan Phillip Square offers free skating if you bring your own skates or a skating rental service

o   Nathan Phillip Squares skating rink is open on November 25th

 Photo by vkovalcik/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by vkovalcik/iStock / Getty Images

o   Skate rentals: children $5, adults $10

o   When the weather gets colder Ryerson offers a smaller and usually less busy skating rink that is free, but you’ll need to bring your own skates

BSM Warm the Sole Sock Drive

o   The Bata Shoe Museum is providing free admission with the donation of a pair of new unworn socks to be distributed to those in need. If you donate on Saturday or Sunday from November 1st- November 30th you get free admission. There are also crafts for kids!

Experiment in the snow

o   Put some food colouring in squeeze bottles with water and paint the snow

Nutrition tips to keeps your toddler fit during the winter time

1.     Make sure you provide and get enough fruit and vegetable

These are loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, water and fiber, magnesium, some are sources of Iron!

During the winter the problems is that there is limited fruits and vegetables available, and they are often pricier. Certain ones are however in season : Oranges, grapefruit, clementine, kiwi, squash, kale (Meltzer, 2007). These are rich in vitamin A, C and K (Meltzer, 2007).

Vitamin C is of particular interest because it is not store in large amount in the body (Dietitians of Canada, 2017a). Daily vitamin C from whole food sources is found to reduce the duration of illness such as the common cold. Full benefits can be received by providing toddler one serving (1 cup) of citrus fruit and berries. Since it is more difficult to find fresh berries during the winter time, alternatives include frozen mixed berries which can be added to smoothies (Biernes, 2016).

Foods: peppers, broccoli, cabbage,  Brussel sprouts, snow peas, cauliflower, kale, potato with skin, sweet potato

2.     Hydration

Everyone’s body depends on water to survive—for our cells, tissues, organs to work, body temperature control, etc.

 Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

Toddlers need 1300 mL of fluid ideally water on daily basis.

In colder seasons, air becomes drier and kids lose more moisture through through their breath. During this colder time of the year, it can be harder to drink the recommended amount of fluid, so try warmer drinks and soups (Biernes, 2016).

3.     Limited sunlight, so need to make sure getting Vitamin D

The best sources of vitamin D is exposure to the sun as it produces a chemical reaction in the skin allowing the body to synthezise vitamin D. During cooler and winter months, sun’s rays are not strong enough to this reaction to occur. Having sufficient Vitamin D is necesssary for  helping our bodies use nutrient such as Calcium among others for the purpose to strengthen bones and teeth, as well as helps our bodies maintain a healthy immune system (Dietitians of Canada).

Consumption of foods high in vitamin D are thus recommended, and perhaps look into supplementation in some cases. Vitamin D is not found naturally in many commonly consumed foods. In Canada, some foods such as milk, soy or rice beverages and margarine have vitamin D added to them (Dietitians of Canada, 2017b). Other good food sources of vitamin D include certain kinds of fish, egg yolks and milk (Dietitians of Canada, 2017b).



Abeln, V., MacDonald-Nethercott, E., Piacentini, M. F., Meeusen, R., Kleinert, J., Strueder, H. K., & Schneider, S. (2015). Exercise in isolation- A countermeasure for electrocortical, mental and cognitive impairments. PLoS One, 10(5) doi:

Biernes, D. (2016). 3 ways to keep your toddler healthy as the weather gets colder. Ddrops. Retrieved from:

Brown, F. E, Spiegel, P. K., Boyle, W. (1983) Digital Deformity: An Effect of Frostbite in Children. Pediatrics , 71 (6) 955-959

Cramp, A. G., & Bray, S. R. (2011). Understanding exercise self-efficacy and barriers to leisure-time physical activity among postnatal women. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15(5), 642-51. doi:

Dietitians of Canada. (2017a). Sources of Vitamin C. Retrieved from:

Dietitians of Canada. (2017b). Sources of Vitamin D. Retrieved from:

Flatt, A. E. (2010). Frostbite. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 23(3), 261-262.

Fudge, J. (2016). Exercise in the Cold: Preventing and Managing Hypothermia and Frostbite Injury. Sports Health. Vol 8, Issue 2, pp. 133 – 139.

Mayo Clinic. (2017) . Seasonal Affective Disorder. [Web]. Retrieved from:

Meltzer, R. (Feb. 2007) "'My favorite fruits and veggies are out of season. Can you suggest good choices for the winter?''." Prevention. Academic OneFile, Accessed 17 Nov. 2017, p23.

Popkin, BM., D'Anci, KE., Rosenberg. IH. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Review. 68(8): 439-458.

WebMD. (2016). Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). [Web]. Retrieved from:


Stress Reduction and Self-Care Workshop

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Probably! The task of balancing work, caring for a child, and maintaining relationships can generate a great deal of stress. Stress is a state of emotional or mental strain resulting from demanding circumstances (Potter, Perry, Stockert, & Hall, 2014). Stress is something that many people experience making it important to ensure that you properly care for yourself and manage your stress. Developing strategies to manage and reduce stress can be a part of a healthy lifestyle for you and those that you care for. One way to manage stress is through mindfulness.

Mindfulness is:




Easy and


It is a practice that involves focusing on the present and being aware of yourself and things around you. Mindfulness can assist in understanding personal feelings, values, and situations by exploring thoughts, emotions, and physical events (Weare, 2013). Using mindfulness has been shown to help decrease feelings of stress or anxiety (Kinser, Robins, & Macho, 2016).

Mindfulness based practices is a part of a variety of therapies known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). It has been shown to decrease anxiety, mental health, improve academic performance, and enhance self-regulation (Weare, 2013).

Easy ways to incorporate mindfulness:

  • Experiencing food through your senses

    • Seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling

    • Focusing on how you are eating instead of what you are eating

    • Example: eating family meals vs eating in front of a TV

  • Witnessing without judgement

  • Listening to guided imagery or breathing exercises

  • Yoga, ti chi, meditation

 Photo by Nadezhda1906/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Nadezhda1906/iStock / Getty Images

Brown University has three tips to easily include mindfulness into your everyday routine:

  • “Walking: Be aware of the sensations of walking, like the quality of the pavement under your feet and how your body feels. Notice when your mind wanders and, without judgment, come back to awareness of walking.
  • Taking a shower: Notice how the water feels on your body and the movements of your body as you shower. This can be a good time to focus on your breath as well.
  • Brushing your teeth: Pay attention to all of the sensations, tastes and movements involved. Since we begin and end the day with this task, it can also be an opportunity to give yourself compassion or lovingkindness” (Brown University, n.d )

Mental Health in Children and Adults

The mental health in children and adults can benefit from mindfulness practices. Common mental health problems that adult and children could experience are anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and PTSD (Charach, 2016). Mental health signs and symptoms change depending on your age and developmental stage but are just as serious if they are experienced by a child or an adult. General signs and symptoms for children vary depending on developmental stage but some signs:

  • may be change in sleep

  • change in appetite

  • a difference in activities

A comprehensive summary of mental health issues can be found at:

Infant and child mental health is related to adult mental health. It has been shown that caregivers mental health is directly related to their child's (Akter, Colonnesi, Majdandzic, & Bogels, 2017). Finding support and resources is a necessary step in order to improve an individual’s mental health. Mothers and fathers can experience changes to their mental health after the birth of a child, with high rates occurring within the first year of a child’s birth (Bennett & Indman, 2015) (Giallo, D’esposito, Cooklin, et al., 2013). This is a time where there are a lot of new experiences, responsibilities, and a significant role change has occurred which can lead to high levels of stress and other mental health disturbances such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or other mental health issues (Bennett & Indman, 2015).

Finding support through SRCPC staff, family physician, or the other resources below can assist in improving your mental health. Improved mental health can help make meaningful connections with your child(ren), people around you, and can make you feel happy and healthier (Akter, Colonnesi, Majdandzic, & Bogels, 2017) (Bennett & Indman, 2015).

Resources for infant, child, and adult mental health


How does Nutrition fit into the topic of Mental Health and Stress Reduction?


Nutrition is of great importance for healthy brain development ! I can say it no better than the Association of UK Dietitians “A well fed brain is more likely to lead to good mood behaviour and learning” (Rex, 2017).

How can we do this?

We should start by having regular meals.

We tend to skip meals, or delay eating when we have a lot going on during the day. Yes, ironically, when we have a lot on our plate, we tend to skip eating. We are probably all familiar with the cranky feeling you get if you have not eaten for a while. Indeed long bouts of time without eating is found to worsens one’s mood and concentration (Rex, 2017). For our children this is equally important as regular meals provide them with the energy they need to think effectively (Rex, 2017).

A recommendation from the Association of UK Dietitians is to incorporate fiber-rich foods in the diet as these foods are digested more slowly, and are longer lasting energy supplies.

Bring color to your plate! This is through a including a variety of foods in the diet.

You do not need to know what each food is good for, the mere fact of including a variety of different foods is making you more likely to get enough of what nutrients you need. Remember to think of nutrient packed foods, fruits and vegetables; limit the sugary drinks and high-fat and highly sweetened treats.

Certain Nutrients are of particular interest in brain development

  • Iron: meat, fish, poultry, dried beans, peas, lentils, some fruits and vegetables, fortified pastas and cereals.

More examples of food sources:

  • Magnesium: Legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains

More examples of food sources:

  • Zinc: Seafood, meats, seeds, cooked and dried beans, lentils

More examples of food sources:

  • Omega-3: vegetable oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, soy products, fish, seafood, fish oils

More examples of food sources:

These are associated to brain development. Although I will not go into the complexities of how these nutrient play a role in brain development, note that they each have their particular associations with attention, concentration, anxiety and sleep.

Early Life Nutrition

During the early stages in life, it has been found that dietary quality influences the risk of mental health illnesses, depression and anxiety in adults (Jacka et al., 2013). As well as links between maternal nutrition and the child’s neurodevelopment and immune system (Jacka et al., 2013). So, that being said, remember to try your best to explore children to a variety of food, so they can make the most of the nutrients available to them.

Let’s take a minute to go back to mindfulness!

Mindful Eating

Have you heard about the Mindful Eating? This is the idea of exploring food through your sense. Take a second to feel the graininess of rice before you cook it, the crunchiness of peanut, the pleasant smell of vanilla, the sourness of a slice of grapefruit. As you know, infants and toddlers explore and learns by touching and tasting, so having them in the kitchen or around food, will have them appreciate the differences in food.

During the Workshop, we had you make Energy Balls. A great breakfast snack, or snack during whatever time of the day. This was a great sensory food activity, as the children can explore the texture of the ingredients such as oats, wow butters, coconut shreds, etc. The following link provides you with the recipe to this hit snack.

RECIPE to the Crispy No Bake Energy Balls, by Bren


American Dietetic Association. (2009). What should you know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating?. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 110(3): 1982-87.

Aktar, E., Colonnesi, C., de Vente, W., Majdandžić, M., & Bögels, S. M. (2017). How do parents' depression and anxiety, and infants' negative temperament relate to parent–infant face-to-face interactions? Development and Psychopathology, 29(3), 697-710. doi:10.1017/S0954579416000390

Bennett, A., Brewer, K., & Rankin, K. (2012). The association of child mental health conditions and parent mental health status among U.S. children, 2007. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 16(6), 1266-1275. doi:10.1007/s10995-011-0888-4

Bennett, S., Indman, P. (2015). Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety. San Francisco, CA: Untreed Reads, LLC.

Charach, A. 2016. Behavioural Disorders: Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from:

Jacka, FN., Ystrom, E., Brantsaeter, AL., Karevold, E., Roth, C., Haugen, M., Meltzer, HM.,

Schjolberg, S., Berk, M. (2013). Maternal and Early Postnatal Nutrition and Mental Health of Offspring by Age 5 Years: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 52(10): 1037-48.

Kinser, P. A., Robins, J. L. W., & Masho, S. W. (2016). Self-administered mind-body practices for reducing health disparities: An interprofessional opinion and call to action. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, doi:

Giallo, R., D’Esposito, F., Cooklin, A. et al. (2013). Psychosocial risk factors associated with fathers mental health in the post natal period: results from a population-based study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 48(4), 563-573.

Potter, P. A., Perry, A.G., Stockert, P.A., & Hall, A.M. (Eds.). (2014). Canadian fundamentals of nursing (5th Cdn. ed.) (J. C. Ross-Kerr, M. J. Wood, B. J. Astle & W. Duggleby, Cdn. Adapt.). Toronto, ON: Elsevier Canada.

Rex, D. (2017). Food Fact Sheet: Diet, Behaviour and Learning in Children. British Dietetic Association.  

Weare, K. (2013). Developing mindfulness with children and young people: A review of the evidence and policy context. Journal of Children's Services, 8(2), 141-153. doi: