Saturday, February 6, 2016

7 ways to beat the winter blues

By February, most of us have had enough of winter's extremes. We are hyper-animated, annoyed and distressed by any more snow in the weather forecast. We crave sun light, warm breezes and colorful flowers. We dream of crocuses, daffodils and baseball.

7 ways to beat the winter blues


This has been a cold and snowy winter, the perfect landscape for the winter blues. For some, this occurs every year and they carry a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Missing sun light may be a factor. Even removing the bright decoration of the holidays may be a contributor to the winter doldrums.  

By February, most of us have had enough of winter’s extremes. We are hyper-animated, annoyed and distressed by any more snow in the weather forecast. We crave sun light, warm breezes and colorful flowers. We dream of crocuses, daffodils and baseball. 

Whether you suffer from SAD or are just sick of drab winter, it is worth the fight to reclaim some happiness this month.  So take some action to pull out of your slump.  Here are some suggestions.

1) Color: When the snow melts, it is gray out there so intentionally bring color into your life. Wear colorful clothes and scarves, buy flowers, and add bright colors via household fabrics such as towels, curtains, throw rugs or decorative pillows.

2) Light: The tendency is to hibernate but remember to get some sun and bright light.  Maybe increase the wattage of the lights in your house.  Some people including people with S.A.D.  even buy therapeutic high wattage lamps to sit under 30 minutes a day. Linger in the brightly lighted supermarkets and hang out near the floral section for awhile to add light and appealing color. Some people add Vitamin D to compensate for less natural sunlight.  Remember to open curtains in the morning too to let the sun shine in.

3) Embrace Winter: Note how snowy and icy tree branches are quite picturesque. Maybe photograph a winter scene. Take up a winter sport such as sledding, skiing or skating.  Watch winter sports, hockey, ice skating, extreme snowboarding, etc.  The focus on the Sochi Winter Olympics should get us through February. Tell yourself you love these winter events, even if you don't.  In counseling sometimes we say "fake it until you make it."  Pretend winter is a special wonderful playground.

4) Learn Something New: Take a class, learn a new game or computer app.  Read a different type of book. Learn yoga, try a new exercise program, or learn new dance steps.  In other words, mix it up.  Stretching your mind and body has its own rewards.

5) People: Connect to friends and family. Host Super Bowl and Olympic parties. Play games and plan a dinner party. Chat with an old friend via Skype. Schedule some social activities in the future so you have something to look forward. Consider shutting off all technology for a few hours and see what developsfor you and your family. If you are feeling alone, check out groups like hiking, bowling, movies, game nights, wine tasting, etc. to enjoy activities with new people.

6) Stay Positive: Consider living by an 80/20 rule. It means that in life if 70-80 percent of what occurs is good and only 20-30 percent is pretty darn annoying, you are one of the lucky ones.  Briefly vent about your frustrations, but then focus on the 70-80 percent of what is good. Write 5 things daily you are grateful about to keep your mind positive.

7) Counseling: The winter blues and Clinical Depression are not the same thing, but the difference can be confusing.  If you feel blue for a day or two, that is called “life.”  Clinical depression is defined as feeling low for two weeks or longer, with frequent crying and often irritability.  If it includes sleep, appetite or safety issues, do not wait the two weeks to get help.

You do not have to be depressed to go to counseling. Counseling is a gift you give to yourself, where you are the focus for 50 minutes.  You do not get that even in the best friendships where you shift to one another every five minutes or so.

Consider counseling when you are overwhelmed, when you are unsure how to proceed, when you consider a change, if misfortune occurs, if family problems develop, when work is tense and whenever you need a sounding board, advice or a place to safely unload.  Get a fresh perspective from a person who is not stewing in your life and issues.

And remember, we are marching forward to spring. Warm breezes, tulips and even March Madness basketball will be here in under a month. Hold on!

Robin Bilazarian is a psychotherapist in private practice in Mount Laurel, N.J.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

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Thomas Trojian MD, CAQSM, FACSM Chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at Drexel University
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