The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

January 10, 2013

Doctors give tips on how to battle winter blues

CLINTON — Packing up Christmas decorations and trudging through dark, cold winter days can leave some of us with a case of the winter blues.

How do you get through it and how can you tell when it is more serious than post-holiday stress?

Local mental health experts weigh in on how to survive the bitter winter months.

“Ten percent of people experience depression at some point in their lives and 5 percent experience life-long chronic depression,” Bridgeview Clinical Psychologist John Keraus said.

Signs of major depression include feeling empty, avoiding people, constantly feeling tired, lack of motivation and concentration and feeling hopeless.

Other physical symptoms include changes in sleep and appetite. Biologically the brain slows down, often encouraging the afflicted to be more lethargic and uninterested in things they used to enjoy, according to Keraus.

Disrupted schedules, overeating and stress during the holidays can carry through and leave some feeling off kilter long after the decorations are packed.

“We really get off our schedules during the holidays, eating too much and changing our sleep patterns,” Cornerstone Wellness Psychologist Tom Millard said. “For those who have depression, symptoms tend to exasperate during this time of year.”

There are many ways to find your way out of the funk and into the light. One of the most important tips is to get out and socialize, even though it may sound like the last thing you want to do.

“It’s so helpful to talk to someone, often outside the situation,” Keraus said. “Being around people is important, even though you might feel like being alone.”

Several of the best ways to combat depression include living a more balanced health lifestyle. Getting out and active and getting nutrition on track can help cut back on symptoms. Keraus recommends doing the opposite of what your body is telling you to do.

“The most important thing to do is get out and challenge the natural urges of depression,” Keraus said.

Community service has also been shown to help, according to Keraus. Whether it be helping other people, getting help yourself or just observing someone helping someone else, it can raise your spirits.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is another mental affliction to watch out for during the winter season. Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, often in the winter months. The only way to tell if a patient has SAD is to study history and patterns of depression, according to Keraus. Symptoms can start as early as the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Treatment for the seasonal illness includes light therapy along with counseling.

And during this stressful time, how do you mentally stick to those looming New Year’s resolutions? The best plan is to be realistic and specific. Accountability is also key to sticking to goals, by getting friends involved to join the challenge.

“Take small steps, like losing a pound a week, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds,” Keraus said.

Both agree that the key to mental health during this harsh time of year is to get help when needed.

“There are excellent medications available for treating the physical symptoms of depression,” Keraus said. “The best treatment is a combination of counseling and medication.”

The most important part is to keep depression from taking away the joys of life.

“Depression is a thief,” Keraus said. “It steals your energy and the things you love, so you must be active and keep the thief away.”

1
Text Only
Top News
  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

    Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life.

    The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

    April 17, 2014

  • Defend 'Obamacare' unabashedly, some Democrats say

    With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it's time to stop hiding from the president's health care overhaul, even in this year's toughest Senate elections.

    Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace "Obamacare," the GOP's favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.

    April 17, 2014

  • Search for Chicago site for George Lucas museum

    As Yoda might say: A site for a museum you must find.

    Those are the marching orders Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving a dozen civic leaders as the city searches for a potential location for an interactive museum to house filmmaker George Lucas' collection of art and filmmaking memorabilia.

    April 17, 2014

  • Illinois unemployment drops to 5-year-low

    State officials say unemployment in Illinois dropped in March to 8.4 percent. That's its lowest level since 2009.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gaming commission rejects Cedar Rapids casino

    The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a proposed $164 million Cedar Rapids casino Thursday, saying it would hurt existing casinos.

    Supporters of the Cedar Crossing Casino development have said it would give an economic boost to Cedar Rapids and the region. They also argued it would be a catalyst for development in an area ravaged by a 2008 flood, create jobs and generate millions for tax revenue and charities.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa Senate race suddenly more competitive

    A catchy political ad and a gotcha video have raised Republican hopes of capturing the Senate seat in Iowa, a prospect that would greatly enhance the party's chances of regaining control of the Senate.

    Republicans are adding the seat, held for three decades by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, to their list of winnable races in the November midterm elections.

    April 17, 2014

  • Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry

    An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

    Meanwhile, the coast guard said it was investigating whether the ferry's captain was one of the first ones off the sinking ship.

    April 17, 2014

AP Video