February may be the shortest month in terms of days, but this year it has dragged on thanks to the heaviest snowstorm we have seen in years. The amount of snow, combined with the lack of sun, has been a perfect formula for an epidemic called the “winter blahs”.
Technically, according to my recent conversation with UPMC psychiatrist Dr Holly Swartz, its is when we aren’t feeling our best and feeling run down and a bit down. It’s not full-blown depression, but it is low desire and energy and we tend to eat a bit more. Those are the “winter blahs”.
The “winter blues” are much more serious. It’s better known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and its much more common in women than men. It ranges from sleeping for much longer periods of time to feelings that life is not worth living. While it sounds dire, Dr Swartz tells me it can be treated rather easily with light therapy. Essentially, its prolonged exposure to special lighting daily.
Beating the winter “blahs”: it’s as easy as snow tubing!
For the majority of us that feel the “winter blahs”, the therapy is much less about medicine. It’s about getting up and getting out. Forget the pills says Dr. Swartz. It’s about social contact during the winter … and its about exercise. Everything from skiing to snow tubing to talking a leisurely walk on those sunnier winter days.
The most important thing is to get out and get active and avoid hibernation which many of us tend to do this time of year.
Also beware of losing more than your energy this time of year. The winter, thanks to the lack of sunshine, can rob you of vitamin D. It’s crucial in everything from fighting of colds and flu to helping in cancer prevention. Foods that can bring the vitamin D back in your body include fish liver oils and certain fortified cereals.
One last way to make those winter blahs go away? Remember its less than 30 days until spring returns to the region.