Beating the Winter Blues

Posted on September 26, 2011

Summer wanes and the fall season may remind us of sweaters, football, cozy time indoors or quiet reading by the fire.  For some the consecutive days of gray skies can mean other types of changes.  Most people living in our geographic region are affected by some seasonal changes in feelings of well being and behaviors such as energy, sleep, eating patterns and mood to a greater or lesser degree.  These changes can range from no change or mild changes that people can easily accommodate in daily life.  Others experience changes that are more of a nuisance, often known as winter blues.  The far end of the spectrum is seasonal depression often referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

How can I be more comfortable during these long winter months? 

 Start by getting as much natural sunlight in your eyes as possible without staring directly at the sun; spend time outdoors on sunny days including the winter when it snows and the sunlight dazzles.  Cheerful interiors reflecting natural light can also be helpful like brightly colored walls, splashes of orange and yellow in pillows and accessories.  Adding more lights on the ceiling, more lamps in a room, a sunlight pipe is a device that transmits natural light into the house.  Exercise and diet can have a valuable effect on mood control.  Combine exercise with getting extra light.  While regulating your mood with food may seem energizing it is a short lived solution.  People with some form of depression will often reach for caffeine, sugar, or even alcohol to change their mood all of which should be taken in moderation or not at all for some people.

What if my physical functioning is impaired, I have significant feelings of depression, or my physical functions are markedly disturbed during winter?  

You should see a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation and to help you explore your options, you may have a form of seasonal depression.

Can I do anything other than meds?

Psychotherapy with medications can be important components of treatment.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been known to get positive results for those suffering with SAD.

There are specific devices, which can be helpful as a component of treating SAD including light boxes that produce 10,000 lux, a therapeutic level for light therapy, when used as a reading light for 20 minutes a day, though time exposure varies and multiple exposures may be needed.  You should be supervised by a physician or qualified therapist to confirm diagnosis, monitor mood and side effects.  It is useful to pay attention to how you feel each day related to how much light therapy or outside light you are getting.  Some people have reported needing less sleep, feeling more energized, and clearer in their concentration after 10 days of use, though not all people benefit from light therapy.  These devices can be ordered from several sources ranging in prices from around $250 to $350.  Most manufacturers have 30-day return policies.   Check with your PCP or psychiatrist prior to using a light box especially if you have a history of eye problems, bipolar disorder, suffer with insomnia or anxiety and always follow manufacturer recommendations.

Stay connected- enjoying quality and joyous time with good friends, family and fellows in faith!  Blessing to all during this Fall and Winter season.  

Bobbye L. Crawford, MA,LMHC, LCAC provides professional counseling services to individuals and couples as well as assessment and outpatient counseling services for those suffering from addictions.  To schedule an appointment call  317-474-6448 extension 105.

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NzE6Imh0dHA6Ly9ncm9mZmFuZGFzc29jaWF0ZXMuY29tL3dwLWNvbnRlbnQvd29vX3VwbG9hZHMvMy1ncm9mZl9oZWFkZXIucG5nIjt9PC9saT48L3VsPg==