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Exploring an Extreme Winter Landscape

It’s Still Winter: How to Manage the Winter Blahs

For those reading this blog in the Omaha area - or surrounding areas of the Midwest - I don’t have to remind you that it is still winter. It doesn’t really feel like we’ve had that much snow this winter, but we have had bitter, bitter cold and lots and lots of wind. I actually met one of my new neighbors this winter because her garbage can end up in my front yard after it was emptied. I live several houses away from her so it had quite a ride that day. Meeting my neighbor was nice and was one of the bright spots of this dreary, seemingly endless winter.

My colleagues and I have also seen this winter take a toll on several of our patients. The shorter days, lack of sunshine and frigid temperatures seem to be adding up to a heavy dose of the winter blahs.

For those who are already struggling with depression, anxiety or another type of mental health diagnosis, these wintry struggles with the weather can take an even bigger toll. Some individuals do well during other times of the year but are so impacted by winter that they are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder - a form of depression that shows up primarily when the weather is wintry.

Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not, winter can wear you down. I took a bit of a survey in my office, talking with the providers and support staff. Here are a few of their recommendations:

  1. Do something nice for someone else.
  2. Bring the exercise routine indoors with DVDs, gym membership, or walking in place while watching television.
  3. Start or continue eating healthy options - fruits and veggies rather than cake and cookies.
  4. Talk with your healthcare provider about vitamins, supplements or blood tests to determine Vitamin D levels.
  5. Get creative - learn to knit, rearrange the living room furniture, teach your dog a new trick, etc.
  6. Enjoy the fresh flowers at the grocery store - if you can, buy some flowers for your own home.
  7. Plan your family’s summer vacation - use maps, the internet, and books to learn more about the places you’d like to go.
  8. Clean the basement or tackle that back bedroom that looks more like a storage unit.
  9. Bake cookies with your kids and take them to an elderly neighbor who might be homebound.
  10. Volunteer! Call a local homeless shelter or animal shelter and volunteer your time. Take your spouse and kids, and make it a family affair.

So what are you doing this winter to cope with the blahs? I would enjoy hearing from you and learning what you are doing to stay healthy this winter. Your ideas may inspire and help someone else!

Take care!

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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