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21 Jan 2005

Beating The Winter Blues

With all the joys of the holidays come a lot of stress, and in some people, depression. It’s not uncommon to feel blue once or twice a month, but if prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness are getting you down, it’s time to take your winter back! There are a few things you should understand about the Winter Blues, and there are a few things you can do to reclaim feelings of joy now, and all throughout the long winter ahead of us.

Lighten Up
Just a few hours a day of intense bright light can wipe away feelings of sadness, experts say. Researchers have found that bright sunlight actually plays an important part in the chemistry of the brain. Without it, important hormones are altered leaving behind a feeling of drowsiness and depression. This form of the winter blues is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and affects an estimated 10 million Americans each year. Treatment includes keeping bright lights on in your house, taking walks outside when possible to catch some of that lingering sunlight, vacationing in a sunny climate, or painting your walls a bright color. If these don't seem to work and you find that the sadness is lingering, your physician can prescribe phototherapy - an intense session with therapeutic bright lights for a few hours each day.

Be Realistic
While lack of sunlight may be playing a role in seasonal sadness, the winter blues can stem from holiday stress and being burned-out! The winter months are full of holidays, one right after another, demanding you to keep up. Set your sights a little lower this year! Instead of volunteering to host Thanksgiving, Christmas or Chanukah, and New Years, offer to help out as an assistant to another friend or family member. It's important to remember that the holidays are not all about the glitter and gifts, it's also about being with loved ones, remembering those that have passed away, and giving support to those who need it…including yourself!

Don’t Rush Into Your Future
With the coming of the New Year many of us strive to make life altering changes - finally determined that we will reroute the course of our lives. Let's say you want to lose weight, become a better person, find a better job, start being nice to your spouse, take the dog for daily walks, and start eating healthy. Whoa! If you were realistic with yourself you'd find that that's quite the list of "To-Do's" all in one day! Keep your New Year's resolutions practical. You can't focus on all the things that aren't right in your life and expect to fix them over night. Set yourself realistic goals and give yourself a big time frame to achieve them in. A favorite quote of mine is: "You can't win if you never start!" Makes sense - doesn't' it? Start slow and work your way up.

Lend a Helping Hand
There's no better way to stop feeling down in the dumps than to help another person in need. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen if you have the time. If you can't do that, call a friend and ask what you can do to make their day a little easier. It's easy to get caught up in the woes of "Me-Me-Me," and forget that you're not the only person in the world with needs. Lend your time to someone else and you will know that your time was better spent than if you had stayed home and slept in all day.

Be Adventurous
Bored with the same-old, same-old? Go out there and try something new! Getting stuck in the same old routine day after day accomplishes nothing but monotony. Add some spice to your life and you might find that you look forward to waking up and starting your day. Find a new way to celebrate the holidays, join a class at your community center, or take up painting as a new hobby. Whatever you choose, just make sure that you're enjoying yourself and not adding another "To-Do" chore to your list.

If your winter blues are severe or persist beyond the holidays, consider seeking professional help