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
  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

     

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • UN calls for probe of plane downed over Ukraine

    The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday demanding international access to the site of the plane downed over eastern Ukraine and an end to military activities around the area, following intense pressure on a reluctant Russia to support the measure.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hatch blasts Branstad for nixing $1M solar grant

    Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch says Gov. Terry Branstad's decision to return a $1 million solar energy grant shows that utility companies are calling the shots in his administration.

    July 21, 2014

  • Iowa sheriff faces questions about jailer's affair

    An Iowa sheriff says he's been subpoenaed to testify about his office's investigation of a jailer who had an affair with a slain pregnant woman.

    July 21, 2014

  • Truce elusive as Hamas, Israel stick to positions

    The top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary" — raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hopkins to pay $190M after doc taped pelvic exams

    Johns Hopkins Health System will pay $190 million to more than 8,000 women whose bodies may have been videotaped or photographed by a gynecologist using a pen-like camera during pelvic exams.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lawmaker: Texas to send 1,000 guardsmen to border

    Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of the White House's response to the surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally, plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

    July 21, 2014

AP Video