How do we avoid the winter blues?
This is a great time to address this question. A couple of weeks ago, daylight savings time ended, and now the sun is setting before 5:00 pm. In addition, we are starting to experience cold weather that can restrict our activities. This can all lead to a decline in your mood.
HERE ARE A FEW OF POINTERS ON HOW TO STAY HEALTHY AND ACTIVE IN THE WINTER:
- Keep a regular schedule. Most adults need 7-10 hours of sleep nightly. Get plenty of sleep, but also try not to let yourself oversleep because it is dark longer.
- Keep active. In general, we recommend 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. However, in the winter, it is especially important to continue to move to keep your mood up. Walking is a great way to do this, and at least some walking should be done most if not every day. Walking at the mall works well when it’s too cold to walk outside.
- Keep a healthy diet. Focus on a diet of lean proteins and vegetables. Keep simple carbohydrates to a minimum. Drink about three liters of water per day. Caffeine intake should be less than 200-400 mg per day. You may consider adding supplements to your diet such as a multivitamin, vitamin D, or B complex.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER OR WINTER BLUES?
SAD is defined as depression with a seasonal onset-usually fall or winter. Here are the symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Insomnia or increased sleep (usually increased sleep and daytime tiredness)
- Change in appetite or weight (usually increase carbohydrate craving and weight gain)
- A feeling of heaviness in your arms and legs
- Low energy
- Poor concentration
- Thoughts of worthlessness or guilt (severe cases)
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (severe cases)
If the above symptoms occur, you should see your doctor.
We have some very effective therapies for SAD. Light therapy is first line for mild or moderate cases. Your doctor can advise you on type of device and how to use it. Mental health therapy with cognitive behavioral feedback can also be very helpful. Lastly, antidepressant medications are highly effective and may be needed. If you have questions or concerns about this topic, please contact your doctor.
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Please note that the Ask an Expert Health Series is a general health and wellness discussion and is not meant to provide medical diagnoses, treatments or to replace medical care. Please refer to your primary care provider for personal health treatment options.