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How to battle the winter blues

Posted at 8:48 AM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 10:48:52-05

Feeling a little down this time of year? Winter is officially here, and even though the days are finally getting a little longer, we’re still in the time of year with the least amount on sunshine, and that can lead to something called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Dr. Jim Polo, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, “Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a depression that tends to start in the late Fall or early Winter and last through the Spring or even Summertime.”

Polo explains SAD is sometimes referred to as the Winter Blues, with similar symptoms to depression. “A sad mood, lack of energy, increased sleep and social withdrawal,” can all be symptoms of SAD.

Only 1 percent of Floridians suffer from the disorder, but those numbers creep higher the further north you go. In Utah and other more northern states, it’s closer to 10 percent.

“Although we tend to look forward to the holidays, it can be a time of stress,” says Polo. “Getting together with family members, which is usually really wanted, but at the same time can be emotionally difficult. And for people who lack family, sometimes loneliness can affect their sense of well-being and health.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also taking a toll.

“Many folks are feeling disillusioned, exhausted and just burned out from all the focus on the current pandemic,” says Polo.

Because SAD is typically believed to be due to the decrease in hours of natural light, a light box can be an effective treatment.

“It’s a medical grade device that can provide natural light of 10K lux, which is the measure of brightness, 20 times greater than normal indoor light,” says Polo.

Polo also suggests getting outside, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and focusing on a healthy diet and exercise. He also says a work-life balance is key.

“Balance your time between leisure and work. Make sure that you’re taking time to get away from work and away from those things that cause stress and do some things that for you are enjoyable,” says Polo.

And limit what Polo calls ‘Doomscrolling’ and instead use your time online to create connection with others.