Commentary: Four tips to help you ease the winter blues

Dr. Lenore A. Tate | Special to California Black Media


Winter’s here. The weather is so much colder, and night arrives hours earlier than in the summer. Many of us may feel that our sleep cycle may have changed as well. Our mood waxes and wanes, and the activities that we typically engage in may have taken a back seat.


Add to that the onslaught of COVID-19 news, constantly adding to the weight of our days. All of this shifts our “biorhythms,” and we find ourselves experiencing some mild symptoms of depression, maybe anxiety, insomnia or sleeping too much and craving high carbohydrate comfort foods like cookies, cakes, ice cream, potato chips, etc.


Research has illustrated that we are at a higher risk of becoming ill when we increase our time indoors. Whether you’re shut in because have a cold, flu or experiencing fear of contracting COVID-19, staying cooped up in the house especially at this time of the year may negatively impact our physical and emotional health.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD for short, is prevalent during the winter and young people and women are at higher risk. With SAD, there are a host of symptoms that are associated with this condition. They include fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal. You might also feel anxious, sad, and even irritability.


Typically, there are three modes of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. They are: (1) light therapy; (2) self-care; (3) psychotherapy and (4) medication.


With the daylight hours shortened, some of us are waking up while it is still dark. Some people have found that using “light boxes” which emit an intense amount of light is helpful. Check with your healthcare professional and your insurance to inquire if this treatment might be covered and a possibility for you. Or simply, open the shades in your house, add a lamp to a room or increase the wattage of your light bulbs and try to get outside during the daylight for a short walk.


Just walking for 10 minutes three times a week has been shown to have positive results in reducing stress and decreasing depression. Exercising for one hour is as effective, many experts report, as using a light box.


If you have the winter blues, eat healthy and stay away from unhealthy snacks that decrease your energy and increase your weight. All those comfort foods make us feel good temporarily but decrease our energy and make us crave more of the same.


Try to sleep in a cool room and go to sleep about the same time each night. Try to sleep 6 to 8 hours and open the drapes or shades upon rising.


Since COVID-19 began, it has become easier through telehealth to access psychotherapy, even for a short-term. If you are working and have insurance, inquire if your employer offers a resource such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides you with several free sessions that are available face to face or virtually.


Lastly, some people may need to consult with their physician or mental health professional about medications to improve their mood and energy level. If you are feeling suicidal, please seek out a healthcare professional or call 911 immediately.


Below are some recommendations you can do to take care of yourself if you are experiencing the winter blues/blahs or SAD:


· Avoid trying to do everything for everybody

· Engage in positive talk because what you say and think will impact how you feel.

· Be positive and confident.

· Take responsibility for your actions and not the actions of others. Stop accusing others. Use “I” statements.

· Forgive others. Don’t hold grudges. Life is too short. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life. Love and take good care of you.

·


About the Author

Lenore A. Tate, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Sacramento, California. She has previously worked as Principal Consultant to the California Assembly and Senate Health Committees as well as the Senate Office of Research. Dr. Tate has also served as a university professor in Texas, Arizona and California. She specializes in neuropsychology, geriatrics and behavioral health. For further information, see www.Lenoretate.com or email at: DRTATE20@gmail.com



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