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The Antelope

Beating the winter blues


Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, which is unfortunate news for people, such as me, that struggle with the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder.

According to Cleveland Clinic, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called seasonal depression, affects around 5% of U.S. adults. It’s estimated that 10% to 20% of adults in America experience a less severe form, called the winter blues.

This condition isn’t actually related to whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow. Rather, SAD is triggered by the change of seasons, usually in the fall. Many experts also believe this clinical condition is related to the decrease in sunlight after daylight saving time, which affects people’s biological clocks.

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD include depressed mood, irritability, mood swings, problems getting along with others, fatigue, oversleeping, appetite changes and weight gain.

The winter blues is not a clinical diagnosis, but describes the sadness, fatigue and lack of motivation that many people experience in the winter months. I have struggled with the winter blues for the past several years, especially because I love sunshine, warm weather and spending time outside. Nebraska’s long cold winters can be difficult for those of us that struggle with the winter blues or SAD.

I have found five ways to help beat the winter blues and keep my spirits high until spring rolls around.

1. Exercise: This seems to be on every self-help tip list, but exercise really does boost my mood. This could be anything from a quick walk on the treadmill to a sweaty weightlifting session. Even if I was dreading going to the gym, I always leave a workout feeling accomplished and upbeat.

2. Let the sunshine in: With winter days being so short, I try to take advantage of every minute of sunshine. Open up the blinds or bundle up and step outside to get some rays. Light therapy is another tactic that can simulate sunshine and help to relieve the winter blues.

3. Socialize: It’s easy to want to hibernate and stay home during the cold winter months, but I try my best to make plans with friends and always have something to look forward to. Spending time laughing with friends and family and making memories is the best mood booster that keeps me from feeling lonely or isolated.

4. Keep a steady sleep schedule: I’ll admit, when it’s dark outside and my bed is toasty warm, it’s nearly impossible to get up in the mornings. However, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule helps with the fatigue that comes with the winter blues and is beneficial to my health, both mentally and physically.  

5. Visit someplace warm: If time and money allow, a quick vacation can be the perfect remedy for the winter blues. I traveled to Arizona at the beginning of January, and the sunny, 70-degree weather was just what I needed to boost my mood and help me get through the remaining weeks of winter.

There may not be one specific cure-all, but I have found that incorporating these tips has helped me manage the winter blues and stay positive while I wait for warm weather and sunny days.  

Keep in mind that if feelings of sadness or hopelessness begin to interfere with daily activities or thoughts of suicide arise, seek help from a mental health professional or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.  

And for one last bit of motivation to get through this difficult season, remember that in just 25 days the sun will set after 7:30 p.m., and the winter blues will be gone for good.

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