How to beat the winter blues

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Winter weather is getting serious now. It’s needed to freeze the germs that are causing lots of people to have colds and other illnesses, but severe chilliness isn’t my idea of fun!

Now that you’ve put away the last of the holiday decorations and Ohio’s winter gray has set in, the months before spring often bring boredom and loneliness to people of all ages. How do you beat the winter blues?

First, take good care of yourself. Good health requires eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercising. It’s important to remain active, both physically and socially, regardless of the weather. Some people are affected by a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, at this time of year. SAD is very real, especially for those of us in central Ohio where we experience an average of 180 gray days annually. If you feel depressed during the winter but feel much better in seasons when there is more daylight, you may have SAD. Some signs and symptoms of SAD include lack of energy, sleeping too much and overeating.

How are you going to avoid seasonal depression or loneliness? Try to stay physically and mentally active. Start a new hobby or a project using a skill you already have. Try a new recipe or revisit an old favorite and invite someone to share your creation. Attend a local university class to expand your knowledge about a topic. Crochet or knit items for a family member, friend or charity. Discover your inner artist – pick up a paintbrush and try your hand at creating your own masterpiece. Adult coloring pages are an option. Maybe woodworking or beading interests you. There are many creative pursuits that can help you stay busy, entertained and fulfilled, while relaxing and enjoying down time. Start a jigsaw puzzle and invite friends to help. Working together helps build relationships and is a wonderful time to share stories and even plan the next gathering.

The local library has a variety of programs open to all even if you don’t know other participants. For example, the main branch in Newark has an adult reading group through March 5. Libraries also have lists of best sellers and old favorites, including series that will entertain for hours. Books on CD or tape and e-books are alternatives to the written page. For anyone with difficulty reading, the free Talking Book and Braille Center (800-792-8322) provides books by mail with the necessary equipment.

Few activities are more uplifting than helping a cause that you care about. How about volunteering? Ask a nonprofit agency if they are looking for assistance. Churches often serve community meals or run programs needing volunteers. Most schools welcome volunteers to read with children or help in other areas.

If the weather keeps you from your normal workout regimen, you can still exercise at home. Workouts for all levels are offered on television and DVD. Try simple exercises that require no special equipment, such as squats holding onto a chair. Do an online search for “exercise at home without equipment” for ideas. Sing and dance to music, perhaps during one of the many talent shows on television. You just might become engrossed in one and following it will provide something to look forward to.

Penny Sitler is the executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County.

Found in The Newark Advocate Saturday, February 6, 2016

 

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