Weatherford Democrat

January 13, 2013

EXTENSION NEWS: Beating the cold-weather blues


Weatherford Democrat

— By KATHY SMITH



Some adults experience a sense of sadness immediately after the busy months of November and December. Frequently, the intense energy that goes into planning and looking forward to all the activities during the holidays can leave one a feeling of disappointment that “it’s over” and for many adults the physical fatigue can be prominent.

Post holiday blues may last a few weeks or more, with the feelings of sadness as the holidays are over. Older adults can particularly be a risk for post-holiday blues for a number of reasons:

• Holiday reminders of memories “then” and “now” separation from families during the holidays is difficult, particularly if your home was the gathering place for your family in years past. Memories of loved ones can be particularly acute during this time of year.

• Unrealized holiday expectations when significant planning went into family togetherness events. These gatherings can be stressful, particularly if there are family conflicts that arise.

• Spending the holidays alone increases the risk of depression.

• Seasonal Affective Disorder: Feeling sad or down all through the winter months may be a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Older adults are at a great risk with women being the highest risk. Some typical symptoms experienced include feeling sad, a lack of restful sleep, feeling tired resulting in less physical activity, social withdrawal and changes in eating patterns that include carbohydrate craving that can increase weight.

Strategies to beat the winter blues:

1. Talk with someone if you are feeling blue. If you are the type of person that knows your feel down during the winter months, tell your family, friends and healthcare providers. Make a plan to stay connected and allow those who care about you to support your wellness.

2. Increase light exposure, get outside. Natural daylight is best. Increased home lighting can help.

3. Stay active. Physical and mental exercise during the winter months is key to feeling well. Consider hobbies, reading, crafts, indoor walking options and volunteering. Indoor exercises are readily available using videos/DVD or light weights. Increasing your activity will give you more energy.

4. Healthy eating. The winter months are notorious for seeking comfort foods that may be unhealthy, like chips, crackers or desserts. Try hearty soups, stews or chili as a nutritious option. Avoid too much caffeine as this can increase your feeling of fatigue.

5. Talk with your health care provider. In addition to these strategies, counseling and possible medications might be helpful. It is never normal to feel sad all year long. Many illnesses and medications can cause symptoms of depressions. A medical evaluation by your healthcare provider may help.

You can find out more information about SAD by checking out the Mayo Clinic website at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affectivedisorder/DS00195.

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or kl-smith@tamu.edu.