Friday, January 27, 2017

Beat those winter blues by Stephen Signor

With winter barely into its second month, the time is on the horizon when being cooped up inside, for whatever the legitimate reasons, begins to take its toll on our mental well being. Commonly referred to as “cabin fever” or the “winter blues”, the clinical name for eminent condition is Seasonal Affective Disorder and it should be taken quite seriously. It is important to understand that one’s state of mind also has an impact on the physical well-being, resulting from eating disorders during this time. Statistics show that during the winter months, schizophrenia behaviors and eating disorders can increase by 37 percent. More alarming is that suicide has increased by 24 percent and anxiety 7 percent during this time. Why May is targeted as the Mental Health Month is beyond comprehension.

There are measures you can take to help alleviate some of the burden placed on your capacity to cope. Sunlight, for one, is your friend and can be a saving grace. Take advantage of ever ray. Walking just 15 minutes out in the bright light can make a difference. Feeling hungry? Walk to that restaurant. Have errands to run that are close by?  Try walking there instead of driving. The sun will not only improve mood, complexion and hair quality, it also provides a good dose of vitamin D.  If you are still feeling a bit off, look on the bright side (pun intended), at least you will look good!

This option may not always be accessible for a variety of reasons. This being the case, maybe you can think about painting the walls a nice pastel, warm color. Doing this will not only help pass the time, it will also provide a distraction. If you are feeling really ambitious - and especially if you are not - force yourself to engage in some sort of alternate activity. Be creative. It doesn’t have to be in the form of exercise, although that is highly recommended. Just 30 minutes a day of distraction from the season can make a big difference and with shorter days, have a profound effect. 

Just as important to mental health is gauging your eating habits. Comfort foods may seem like a good idea but most of the time they contain sugars or starch. Our “happy place” is dictated by serotonin levels and these kinds of foods play no role in keeping them in check. In some cases they deplete what is already there. Instead, eat healthy, which is what we all should be doing anyway. Even supplements should be considered. Your body will thank you as much as your mind.

We are not equipped to hibernate, so it is not wise to try to emulate the life of a bear. Instead, set the alarm on that biological clock and listen to your body. According to the US National Sleep Foundation, there is no magic number of hours to sleep. is a web site that co-exists with the Department of Health and Human Services suggests: Setting a regular bedtime/ Establish a sleep and wake schedule/Create a relaxing bedtime routine/Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and food near your bedtime. 

These are just a few of the many things that we can do to help improve our moods. They keep us from climbing the walls, gaining weight and going on a rampage. While they are easier said than done, none-the-less they are imperative elements in stabilizing and maintaining a healthy attitude from the time that first snow flake falls to the first green bud that springs to life. 

Last but certainly not least, take a break from the norm. We are all living in the fast lane. Pull over. Spend more time with friends and family. Invite them over if you must.  Read a book, listen to music or watch a movie (preferably at a theater). Do not rely on prescription drugs to feel good. The same goes with liquor. Many of us are not aware that alcohol is a depressant. In the end these are only temporary fixes and are unhealthy. 

If you are not sure if you fall into the category of being depressed, there are warning signs. They include but are not limited to: Restlessness, changes in weight, fatigue, irritability and empty feelings. Believe it or not most people take these lightly. Often they think they are just being in touch with their feelings, consequently dismissing these symptoms as nothing more than being normal. This could not be further from the truth. If you are still not sure what to look for, look in the mirror.

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