Getting through the blues of Utah's long, dark and cold winters | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Getting through the blues of Utah's long, dark and cold winters 

Small Lake City

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We just got through the dark days of winter. High five to those who struggle with winter blues and made it through. I, personally, am over the cold and miss the sunshine.

Between 4% and 6% of people in the United States are believed to have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. And as many as 20% may experience a mild form of it—the "winter blues"—that starts when days get shorter and colder.

SAD is more commonly observed in women, young adults and individuals residing farther from the equator. Those with a family history or previous diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder may be particularly vulnerable.

As we still have the remainder of winter ahead, February can often evoke feelings of bleakness, coldness and dreariness. Here's some tips while looking ahead to spring. Consider engaging in a new winter activity—such as skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or sledding—to add some excitement and enjoyment to the season. The University of Utah offers affordable options to rent outdoor recreation gear.

Practice mindfulness through meditation, journaling or breathing exercises. Continue or establish an exercise routine. Check to see what events and programs your local neighborhood is offering. Mine is offering free yoga classes twice a week and a free exercise class twice a week. We love Sunday nights at Full Circle Yoga.

Try light therapy with a light lamp. They start as low as $20. If your financial situation permits, consider traveling or working in a remote location. My friends, Alan and Sadie, have the flexibility to work remotely and frequently embark on trips to enjoy sunny destinations. Similarly, my friend Christie recently returned from Costa Rica as she is aware of how seasonal depression impacts her well-being.

If traveling is not feasible, a staycation can be a viable alternative. Even a brief respite from your routine can be beneficial in managing winter depression. Find community—who else do you know that struggles in the winter? Set up regular meetings for tea or chats. You could rotate houses or locations. I take a vitamin D supplement (with doctor's supervision) and drink plenty of water. Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is associated with an increased risk of depression. Taking a supplement may help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

How is your sleep routine? Are you obtaining sufficient sleep? Is the quality of your sleep satisfactory? In my family, we have enhanced the quality of our sleep by relocating pets from our bedroom (rest assured, they are content with their minky blankets). Adhering to a consistent schedule often enhances sleep, which can alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.

It's acceptable for humans, as with bears, to take a period of rest and rejuvenation during the winter. Our bodies require time to recharge. Achieving a healthy equilibrium is crucial. Spring will be here before we know it!

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Cat Palmer

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