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Tips to fight the winter blues |

Tips to fight the winter blues

Mary Pickels
| Friday, January 11, 2019 12:00 p.m

Coping with “SAD”

Tis the season for a bit of post-holiday letdown with the realization that spring is still several months away.

For some people, those with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), winter’s chilly temperatures and increased darkness can cause a type of depression, says Dr. Krista Boyer.

A licensed psychologist with Mt. Pleasant and Connellsville Counseling and Psychological Services, and a Chatham University faculty member, Boyer recently addressed several dozen people attending a “Winter Blues” program at the Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library.

The company has purchased light therapy lamps for the library, which the public can use during winter months.

Library director Mary Kaufman anticipates making several of the lamps available for two-week loan, so area residents can determine if that type of therapy might benefit them.

Becoming bear-like

SAD symptoms can include fatigue, low energy, sadness, sleep disturbances and increased appetite, Boyer says.

As difficult as it is for some people, the season is short. “We just need to embrace the winter months,” Boyer says.

It can be a time to enjoy the quiet and pursue pleasures we may put off in the warmer months, such as reading and meditating. “Winter also teaches us to be patient,” Boyer adds.

SAD tends to affect people ages 18-55, and more women than men experience its symptoms, Boyer says.

Stress levels and heredity can increase susceptibility.

“For most people, it takes them 14 winters to realize they have SAD,” she says.

“A lot of it has to do with the lack of light. The cold is bothersome, but it’s more the lack of light,” Boyer says.

One may wish to hibernate like a bear, eating and sleeping more and decreasing activity.

“You may have low energy … low motivation,” she says. Mood changes also can impact memory and one’s personal relationships.

Powering through

What can help, Boyer says, is understanding many of those symptoms disappear when winter ends.

A Seasonal Pattern Assessment, available online at, can help determine if a treatment plan might help, she says.

If one experiences day to day functioning impairment, misses work regularly, notices irritability impacting relationships, or notices suicidal thoughts, it’s time to seek clinical help, Boyer says.

For more minor depression, going outside for 30 minutes on sunny days or for two hours when overcast can help.

“Exercise in the morning, especially cardiovascular, is energizing,” she adds.

An alternative to daylight is using a light therapy lamp to stop the production of melatonin, Boyer says, especially if one does not work near a window.

Short-term use, about one-half to one hour daily, especially in the morning, can help energize some people, she says.

Another option is a dawn simulator, which gradually wakes one as if the sun is rising.

Importance of self-care

Boyer emphasizes acceptance and positivity during the winter.

Weight tends to drop and energy increase as the days lengthen, but this time of year also has benefits, she says.

One can enjoy the season’s coziness in front of a fireplace, by lighting candles, sipping tea, and setting goals for the new year.

Boost moods by hosting soup parties and hot chocolate bars with friends, and making plans for winter holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras, Boyer suggests.

Rather than indulging in heavy carbohydrates, sample the season’s fresh fruits and vegetables grapefruit, tangelos, broccoli, radishes and winter squash.

“The good news is (winter) ends. We only really have two more months of (winter),” Boyer says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, or via Twitter .

Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Psychologist Dr. Krista Boyer discusses “SAD” during a community program at the Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Dr. Krista Boyer demonstrates use of a light therapy lamp to assist with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Categories: News | Health Now
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