Dr. Steve’s “Thought for the Day” – Don’t Let the Season Get You Down

This morning a Facebook friend of mine posted an expression of her bewilderment that her son had a harder time waking up at 6:45 AM this morning to go to school than he had waking up at 5:15 AM over the holidays for a hunting trip.  “How classic,” I thought.  A kid finds it easier to get up earlier for fun stuff than to get up later for school.  But then I realized there could be something else at work here, and kids aren’t the only ones susceptible to it.

Today is the first Monday — and the beginning of the first full work week — of the New Year.  For many people, this time of year is a bit of a downer.  It’s winter, and it’s colder and greyer outside in many places.  The fun and excitement of the holiday season is over. It’s not at all surprising that this is the time of year that many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition characterized by depression related to the colder, less inspiring weather conditions.

Here are my suggestions for dealing with the “winter doldrums”:

1)   Be positive.  Focus on the New Year as a time for optimism and seizing opportunity, not being shackled by past failings.  I read an article by Oprah Winfrey in which she said that the thing she wished she knew at age 21 was that “this, too, will pass.”  She’s right.  Mistakes you’ve made, past failings and shortcomings do not have to define or control you.  In fact, your best chances of success are to put failures behind you and look forward, learning from past errors, but not dwelling on them.

2)   Be productive.  Wake up early, set goals for yourself at work or focus on a project or initiative you are passionate about, and stay busy.  It’s well-known that one of the best ways to make mundane tasks interesting is to set goals, challenge yourself, and turn them into projects you want to complete for your own purposes.  This can infuse new energy into otherwise boring – but necessary – pursuits.

3)   Be active.  Force yourself to get exercise – even if it’s walking – every day.  It is a consistent research finding that vigorous aerobic exercise is very effective – perhaps as effective as antidepressant medication – in controlling symptoms of depression.  If possible, try to time your exercise during daylight hours, since exposure to light is believed to be helpful against seasonal depressive symptoms.

For most people, these holistic suggestions will be effective in battling the “wintertime blues.”   For people who develop a more substantial or sustained depressive episode, consulting your primary care physician or a psychiatrist will be necessary.  Either way, don’t let the season get you down.  Be positive, be productive, be active, and make the most of this New Year.

Dr. Steve




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