Health Professionals share how long winters can impact your mental health

Many know it as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Many know it as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - Mental health professionals are sharing tips for how to boost your mood during our long winters. Colder weather, shorter days, and less physical activity may lead to an increase in anxiety or depression during the winter. Most know this as seasonal depression.

“We have a decrease in activity, and we are naturally feeling a little bit slow. Sometimes even sadder than normal,” said Cheryl Beauchamp, Northpointe Director of Community Inclusion.

Health professionals say vitamin-D deficiencies play a factor in serotine levels. Increasing your mood can start with your breathing.

“So, stepping outside to take five to 10 deep breaths can stir up those endorphins and help you get back, focused, and better concentrating,” said Megan Riehl, University of Michigan Clinical Gastrointestinal Psychologist.

More extreme feelings of depression and anxiety during the winter could be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “S.A.D.”

“When you start to lose interest in things that you used to enjoy doing, or when you start to feel sad or down all the time, even when there is no reason to. Another really common thing with Seasonal Affective Disorder is sleeping way more than usual,” said Jason Bombard, Aspirus Ironwood Clinic Psychiatrist.

Bombard says those with S.A.D. sleep an average of two hours more per night than in warmer months. He says in the U.P., at least seven to 15 percent of people may suffer from some form of seasonal depression. He also says women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with S.A.D. than men. He believes it is less reported by men. Bombard encourages both men and women to speak up about their mental health.

“It goes undiagnosed a lot of the times, so it is really hard to say exactly how many people suffer from the disorder,” Bombard said.

Treatment can range from medication to finding an outdoor hobby, like skiing, or finding light supplements.

“Light therapy can be really helpful. A full-spectrum light or a dawn simulator would be a Yooper’s best friend to help us get that sensation and trick our bodies into thinking we are getting natural sunlight,” Beauchamp said.

Health professionals say that if you have any extreme negative feelings, you should speak to your primary care physician.

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