An ode to spring (in all of its forms)

Spring may be unpredictable, but it’s still my favourite season.

Is it sundress season yet? I thought it was, until that glorious snowstorm we all woke up to on Thursday. Before that, I had set out to write an ode to spring in honour of the frost finally thawing, but the weather reports laughed in my face. “Is spring still your favourite season?” they wondered, cackling and rubbing their hands together. Despite the unpredictability of the season, I will defend spring to the end. 

Okay, so maybe the haters of the season have a point. Even once the snow finally melts (and stays away for good) it isn’t the easy-breezy sunshine and green grass transformation we see in cartoons. It’s more like brown slush, ground littered with ancient cigarette butts, and fossilized dog sh—well, I think we all know what I’m talking about. 

The springs of my childhood outside of the city weren’t much prettier, to be fair. The snow piles sometimes didn’t fully disappear until June, and I have vivid memories of flooded roads and the soccer field turning into a swamp.

Where is the glamorized version of spring we desperately need, the one with bees and flowers and blooming buds that all the poets are so obsessed with? That version of the season often doesn’t fully come around until May or June, by the time we’re already a couple of months deep into spring. March and April are really more of an awkward transition, an uncomfortable dance between winter and the vague promises of summer. 

Still, the glimpses of sunlight make it all worth it. What I love about spring is the chase: the exhaustion of winter and the tension of constantly checking the weather, followed by the thrill of finally being able to stash the winter coats. There truly is no better feeling than the first true feeling of spring air. Not only can you breathe better, but also the joy is palpable. Everyone can attest to the weight that gets lifted when winter finally passes. There’s an undeniable mood boost that hits at the end of seasonal blues and brings droves of hibernators out into the thawing parks.

Not only that, but we also get to witness the days get longer and longer. The joy of not being plunged into darkness at 4 p.m.! More sunlight means more Vitamin D and overall health improvements—both physical and mental. 

And sure it might be a little while until the flowers bloom, but the snow right now will only make the wait more worth it. Soon the icicles will melt from the trees, and you know what comes next. There’s nothing cuter than buds on the trees—sure they aren’t proper leaves, but they’re trying to be, and I think that should be enough. 

My strongest case for spring though is absolutely indisputable, no matter what anyone else says: the best concerto in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is Spring. I will not be taking arguments; this is a fact, not an opinion. So here’s my advice to you: to fully embrace the beauty of spring, throw open your windows (when the weather permits), blast some Vivaldi, and trust that the spring is here for real. 


Simply Scientific: Can you get sick from being cold?

You’ve probably heard it before: Don’t go outside without a scarf, you’ll get sick! Make sure you wear thick socks and gloves, you get sick from the extremities! 

We’ve all heard that being cold makes you sick. But is that true?

The short answer is no. When you get sick, it’s because you caught a virus or bacteria.

Basically, a cold is an upper respiratory tract infection. The most common culprit for this infection is the rhinovirus, a common virus that replicates quickly in the nose and then goes down to infect your throat. This makes you cough, and can sometimes lead to ear and sinus infections. You may also get a fever and fatigue as your body fights against the virus.

This “common cold” virus is quite easy to catch. Unlike many bacteria and viruses that are only transmissible in certain ways—think about how HIV can only be transferred through bodily fluids—rhinoviruses are airborne.

This means they can spread through droplets in the air—like when someone coughs or sneezes—and enter through your mouth, eyes, or nose.

It can also spread through hand-to-hand contact; for example, if you shake hands with someone infected who coughed into their hand and then you touch your eyes, you’re likely to catch the virus.

In short, to catch a cold, you need to be exposed to someone else who has a cold. No virus, no illness.

So why do people think you’ll get sick if you are cold?

The answer lies in the effect that cold temperatures have on viruses, human bodies, and our behaviour.

Being cold weakens your immune system, making it harder for your body to resist infection when you are exposed to viruses.

It has also been shown that rhinoviruses replicate faster when it’s cold, making it more likely that you will be exposed to it.

In addition, when it’s cold outside, you’re probably going to spend more time indoors, surrounded by other people who may be sick.

Indoor humidity also plays a role in getting sick: when it’s humid, viruses can attach to water droplets; since heaters dry out the air, the virus is more prone to infect you instead. Heaters also dry out your sinuses, and a lack of nasal mucus makes it harder for your immune system to fight off infection.

Overall, the combination of low humidity and low temperature makes viruses last longer and your immune system weaker, both of which together may get you sick.

So, can you get sick from being cold?

The long answer is yes, but only because cold and dry environments increase the likelihood of you catching whatever virus or bacteria you’re exposed to.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Weekly Mixtape: Handling the cold

Normally, the weather is a topic of conversation reserved for old ladies and cashiers. These days, however, it seems to be all anyone knows how to talk about; and with good reason. Last week our city was hit with some of its coldest days in nearly three years. Cars weren’t starting, people were getting frostbite, trains were stalled and there were complaints aplenty. This week’s mix aims to acknowledge the fact that, yes, we’re all freezing our butts off. On the other hand, it also helps to remind us that nothing is stopping us from pretending that it’s summer. Once you make it through Side A’s songs that evoke the biting cold, either lyrically or musically, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy Side B’s feel-good summer warmth. Continuous above-zero temperatures may be months away, but if you imagine hard enough, this freeze is already on its way out the door.


Side A: Okay, It’s Cold as #$*% Outside

1. Walk the Moon – “Shiver Shiver” – Walk the Moon

2. Robot Koch ft. John LaMonica – “Nitesky” – The Other Side

3. Half Moon Run – “Full Circle” – Dark Eyes

4. Mumford and Sons – “Ghosts that We Knew” – Babel

5. Snow Patrol – “Those Distant Bells” – Fallen Empires

6. Switchfoot – “Twenty-Four” – Beautiful Letdown

7. Freelance Whales – “Kilojoules” – Weathervanes

8. Miike Snow – “Silvia” – Miike Snow

9. Breaking Benjamin – “So Cold” – We’re Not Alone Here

10. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “Hand Covers Bruise” – The Social Network


Side B: The Musical Equivalent of Hot Cocoa

1. The Go! Team – “Huddle Formation” – Thunder, Lightning, Strike

2. MGMT – “Kids” – We (Don’t) Care

3. The Kooks – “Seaside” – Inside In/Inside Out

4. Empire of the Sun – “Walking on a Dream” – Walking on a Dream

5. The Zutons – “Always Right Behind You” – You Can Do Anything

6. fun. – “All The Pretty Girls” – Aim and Ignite

7. Hot Hot Heat – “Middle of Nowhere” – Elevator

8. OK Go – “You’re So Damn Hot” – OK Go

9. Beck – “Gamma Ray” – Modern Guilt

10. Ed Sheeran – “Gold Rush” – +

Student Life

Don’t let the weather rain on your parade

Graphic by Alessandra McGovern

Cranking the clock one hour forward this past Sunday is a familiar ritual filled with mixed emotions.
While it does mark that spring is around the corner, what you lose in one hour of beloved sleep, you gain in an hour of precious daylight. This fact is one of the many strategies you can put in your arsenal of tricks to help make seasonal affective disorder disappear.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, SAD is a category of clinical depression thought to be triggered by the shortened days between late autumn until spring, resulting in less absorption of daylight. Even though SAD was officially coined as a disorder in the early 1980s, the general public living in northern climates unofficially refer to SAD as the “winter blues.”
However, using SAD and winter blues interchangeably is apparently a misnomer according to CMHA; while it is estimated that two to three per cent of Canadians are affected by SAD, up to 15 per cent of Canucks sing the winter blues, which is a milder form of SAD. Does the medical term “disorder” affect people’s interpretation of this condition or is SAD just a medical theory conspiracy?
Ahmed Abusneneh, 27, a third-year math student, doesn’t think the SAD label adds up to the sum of its parts. “I don’t believe in names, but I think it exists,” Abusneneh said. “We’re meant to live in the daytime, not at nighttime; nighttime is to sleep. So, if we have more time to sleep than to be active, then for sure as a human, you’re going to be depressed if you’re not strong.”
The opposite holds true for fourth-year honours sociology and Judaic studies student Sofia Danna when it comes to linking less sleep to depression. “I don’t necessarily get depressed, but I do know that I feel, when I’m up too late, I just get more negative and if it’s really late, I can still just be brooding,” said Danna. “So, that’s why I feel that maybe if I don’t have seasonal affective disorder, I think that I benefit from getting more sunlight and going outside.”
So what causes us to become hibernating humans during the winter? Heidi Wiedemann, a Montreal psychologist in private practice, explains that we need to see the light.
“The fact that we get that much less daylight has a very depressive effect on a lot of people, and it is like a domino effect; less light, so people go out less often, they exercise less often and all those things combined really change how people’s brains are working, they become more lethargic.” Wiedemann continues to describe how “what you seek, you will find” attitude plays a role in those affected by SAD.
“If you’re joyful and optimistic and feeling up, your brain is primed to look for things in your environment that are cheery, that are positive, that are uplifting,” Wiedemann said. “And the opposite is also true that, if you find yourself in a bit of a slump or the weather changes and you have less light and you’re becoming more lethargic, your brain is then primed to pick up all those things that will also fit that, so it will look for less positive things as reinforcement.”
Picking up on SAD symptoms may not always be as obvious; typically, the symptoms range from anxiety, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, irritability, tendency to oversleep, reduced energy and increased fatigue. Research has also shown that SAD usually starts the age of 20 and is more prevalent in women than men. While these symptoms can overlap with those of other forms of depression, it is possible to distinguish them.
“The main differentiating factor between depression and SAD would be that with depression, usually there is something that triggers it, like an event or a loss of some sort […] a break-up, losing something of value and there are also certain thinking patterns that just make the depression deeper,” said Anna Cegielka, a West Island psychotherapist who specialises in cognitive behaviour. “With seasonal affective disorder, it just kind of happens out of the blue, all of a sudden for seemingly no good reason, people just start feeling down and lacking energy.”
Feeling the heat of spring fever is tempting when we look at the calendar that says winter will be over in a few weeks; however, the veteran Montrealer knows not to count one’s spring eggs before they hatch, as that surprise last gasp of winter seems to take our breath away come late March or early April. Whether you’ve hit a low note in singing the winter blues, or you’ve reached your breaking point, there are practical, affordable and effective solutions to help you see the light at the end of the SAD tunnel.
“It’s being mindful and aware of yourself, of your moods, your feelings, energy levels and observing and being aware from day to day how things fluctuate,” said Cegielka, suggesting effective mindfulness activities such as meditation, Tai Chi and yoga. “For some individuals, getting full-spectrum light bulbs (special light bulbs that do not filter out UV) provide somewhat of a simulation of daylight.”
Cegielka also mentioned that special lamps, similarly to light therapy, deliver a bigger dose of lighting that may be more helpful for those with increased SAD symptoms.
As for Wiedemann, she provided a three-step approach in addition to increased light to march through March a happy camper.
“My first thing would be take [exercise] outside and get as much sunlight and as much daylight on you as you can; even in my private practice I really shy away from medications,” Wiedemann explained. “There’s too much lately about how all the medications cause changes in the brain that keep you then perpetually stuck in a loop of needing when in fact, [if] you listen to those top three things, take care of yourself nutritionally, that you exercise, and that you get outside into the daylight, […] that’s much more effective than medication.”
Besides filling up on healthy foods with vitamins C, D and omega 3, or dusting off those trainers in the back of your closet (while keeping those winter boots on standby), the most simple and effective strategy you have within yourself is the power to make a positive change.

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