5 Tips to Fight off the Winter Blues
Stony Brook Medicine Psychiatrist shares ideas to keep your mood steady the entire year
STONY BROOK, NY, March 5, 2015 – With the forecast calling for more snow today, this ‘eternal’ winter the North-East has been suffering through has many in the region calling it quits on this season. But if you have been feeling moody or even depressed this winter, you’re not alone. About 10 million Americans are said to be effected with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Another 10 to 20 percent could have a mild case of the disorder.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons,” explains Ramin Parsey MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “Symptoms often start in the fall and continue into the winter months, weakening energy levels, creating moodiness, causing sleep problems and even causing weight gain.”
But Dr. Parsey says there is help. “Common treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder may include forms of light therapy or phototherapy, psychotherapy and medications.” However, he says, don't brush off those feelings as simply a case of the "winter blues"; there are simple steps you can take to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the season, and even the entire year.
1 – Get plenty of exercise: Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
2 – Keep up with social activities: When you're feeling down, it can be hard to be social but making an effort to connect with people that you enjoy being around can give you a boost. Staying connected to friends and loved ones can offer support and give you something else to think about other than the weather.
3— Keep on the bright lights: Light therapy is often used to treat SAD and those lights mimic the natural outdoor light which appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Also think about opening the blinds or sitting closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
4 – Try to keep a regular sleep schedule: Melatonin, a hormone that controls the natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours, could fluctuate during the shorter winter days, causing disruptions to sleep patterns and mood.
5 – Speak to your health care provider: Your doctor can make the proper assessment and give you an accurate diagnosis. He or she can also recommend the right form of treatment.
So hang in there, Spring is technically only two weeks away. And following these simple tips could help you reach brighter days.
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