This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Daylight savings time ended on Sunday, and for many people, this means darkness sets in by the time they leave work in the evening. This shift in daylight hours disrupts our routines, and while it can be a bummer for many people who enjoy outdoor activities, for some this time of year brings with it feelings of depression that go well beyond the winter blues.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Symptoms often start in the fall — right around this time of year — and continue through the winter months. SAD is characterized by signs and symptoms that should be taken seriously, including suicidal thoughts or behavior, social withdrawal, problems at school or work, and substance abuse. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse if it’s not treated. If you have intense feelings of depression that seem to come and go each winter, it may be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Treatments are available that may help you feel better.
Don’t brush off yearly feelings of depression as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. That low-energy, moody feeling may be something more serious. In addition to medical treatment, the Mayo Clinic offers these strategies that may benefit those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, as well as anyone else who feels a little “blah” during the dark winter months.
• Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds or trim tree branches that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
• Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Stress is especially prevalent throughout the upcoming holiday season and carving out time to stay healthy is a great idea for everyone. Additionally, being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, which can lift your mood.
Winter can be a wonderful time here in Western Nevada, but not if you’re suffering from depression. Take steps now to take control of your health and ensure you get the most enjoyment out of the upcoming months.
Carson City Health and Human Services would like to remind the community flu vaccines still are available for a fee at both the Long Street and Douglas County clinic locations. Most private insurances and Medicaid/Medicare are accepted. For information on the flu vaccine or other Health Department programs and services, check out our website at http://www.gethealthycarsoncity.org/ or “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs.