e-Wise Woman: Health tips for women on the go | Issue 1 | Spring 2012

Beat Those Doldrums

One in four people feel a biological change, usually starting in October and ending around April. The dreaded “winter doldrums” have arrived. You may feel lazy and experience food cravings (one reason many people gain a few pounds over the winter).

Is it serious?

“The first step should be making sure that what you’re feeling is indeed winter doldrums, and not another form of depression,” advises Pam Green, M.A., L.L.P., and Managed Care Specialist with HAP Coordinated Behavioral Health Management. “Women can experience many versions of depression, from postpartum, premenstrual or low-grade dysthymia, a condition meaning you might be depressed all the time and not realize it. Is it really related to the season, or are you just more aware of it in winter? Sometimes it’s worth talking to a doctor to see if there’s something more going on.”

Is it normal?

If you’re pretty certain you’ve just got the “winter blahs,” you’re normal. “To a certain extent this is a part of our nature,” Pam notes. Use winter for reflection, quiet hobbies and friendship. Build fires, light candles and focus on rejuvenating, instead of feeling you have to run around like crazy. Try storytelling or crafts; make winter a time of productive indoor activities. When you do go outdoors, make the most of the season. One year, when our children were small, my husband suddenly said, ‘Let’s go on a picnic.’ It was cold and snowing, but we packed a lunch, hot chocolate, bundled everybody up and went to Cranbrook. We played games and looked for fairies in the snowdrifts, it was a great day they still remember.”

Is it somewhere in between?

Around 11 million Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a winter depression marked by increased sleep, less energy, and irritability. While antidepressant medications and talk therapy can help, it’s also important to make an effort to get outdoor sunlight (sunlight through a window doesn’t work). “Take a long walk on your lunch hour in a warm coat and boots,” advises Pam. Artificial “sun box” lights that mimic the sun’s rays can also work when used for 30 minutes first thing in the morning.

Need advice? HAP Coordinated Behavioral Health Management (CBHM) is available to consult with you and match you with appropriate care Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call toll-free at (800) 444-5755 or email caretrack@hap.org.

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