Blue is Blue: Winter can have an impact on your health. Watch for the winter blues.

As the snow piles higher and higher this winter, do you ever say to yourself, “I just can’t take it anymore”? Lots of us feel that way; too many days bundling up and wearing boots, too few days with gray skies vs sunshine and more than enough days where driving is treacherous and walking the dog requires snowshoes and you worry about yourself, elderly family and neighbors and teenagers who are driving for the first time in winter weather. PHEW! Then there is being cooped up in the house, furnaces that go out on the coldest of days, cars that won’t start and the incessant shoveling. In addition, there’s a pandemic! Get the picture? Too much already! And if this isn’t enough, you may be one of the 10 million people who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder; a step above the winter blues, in fact, a winter-pervasive depression reducing motivation, concentration, and making people feel moody or manic.

You are probably wondering if your winter blues are more than “just tired of the winter weather”. You may recognize SAD when many elements of your life are off kilter and the season is the reason. So, you may be able to think of other wintery seasons when your mood, thinking, and behavior just seemed stuck. “Stuck” may mean you are really suffering and the pervasiveness and length of time for the depressive feelings is absolutely debilitating.

The reasons for SAD really are linked to the sun and our body’s reaction to a reduction in serotonin levels, the change in daylight hours and alterations in the body’s melatonin levels. All of these can cause moodiness, sleep changes, and emotional roller coaster reactions to work and relationships. Pleasurable activities and hobbies fall by the wayside and a cycle of sadness and unhappiness ensue.

True to our foundation for believing that people can and do recover from mental illnesses and that there is always hope, your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital reminds you that there are some things you can do to not be “SAD”.

  1. Know yourself
    Keep a journal; year to year and you may see similar dips in mood and activity. These patterns are letting you know that you may have SAD. If you are adding poor sleep patterns and isolation to the mix you are getting much closer to the reality that you’re not just lazy and unmotivated, you are struggling with a real health disorder. Remember this is not just an “off day”; look for daily feelings of sadness or feeling down. If your work/school, relationships, and interest in pleasurable activities is affected for two weeks, and beyond, take it seriously and don’t blame yourself! SAD can be a serious illness making one feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless, three feelings factors that can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.
  2. Do something
    You can start with your doctor. Many primary care physicians are skilled in mental health concerns and will recognize SAD symptoms. He/she will help you identify the best mode of treatments and those can include talk therapies, light therapy, or medication.
  3. What works
    Seek the light; make every effort to be outside if the weather permits; even grayer days give some light that is beneficial to those with SAD. If natural light is unavailable or the weather is too brisk to enjoy, ask about light therapy and specialized lamps that can brighten your mood by increasing the release of melatonin in your body.Walk it out! Getting exercise has been known to improve both mood and outlook and may reduce the potential for winter weight gain which also has an impact on mood and overall health.

    Talk it out! Talk therapies are proven ways to help work through the feelings connected with SAD and alleviate some of the guilt that goes with a disorder that can make one feel so “off”, unmotivated and disconnected.

    Meditate your way through SAD: Meditation might not be the only answer to getting through the myriad SAD symptoms, but it can ease the stress of this common disorder.

    Let medication help: If a combination of the above doesn’t seem to provide relief, maybe medication will create an improved regulation of mood, behaviors and emotions.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, positive mental health is our business. We can help in any season and specialize in the spectrum of mood and anxiety disorders, among other mental health conditions. It looks like winter will be around for a while longer. Don’t let SAD get you down. Please call us for a free, confidential mental health assessment at: 855-990-1900, 24/7/365. We are always here and ready to help. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted and we are in network with most insurances, including managed Medicaid plans, Medicare, Tri-Care and Wisconsin BadgerCare.