Has winter gotten you down?

February 27, 2008

By Jenn Zellers

The winter weather got you down? Go outside and have a snowball fight with your friends or kids. It’ll make you feel better. Well, maybe not getting pummeled by a snowball or two, but just getting outside will help.

Jokes aside, the winter blahs can be a serious health issue. The winter months, especially in the north, wreak havoc with our bodies. The shortened days, lack of sunlight and the overall gloomy weather makes some people want to hibernate until spring. 

According to Laura Hieronymus, Director of the Health and Wellness Center, “Most people feel blue and sad around this time of the year because they’re spending so much time inside and the cold weather and the lack of sunlight, that and the general lack of exercise,” all lead to an overall blah feeling during the winter months.

The winter blahs shouldn’t be confused with a more serious health condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a depressive disorder that occurs most often during January and February each year.

In a newsletter published by the University of Virginia, 25% of the population experience at least a mild form of SAD and it usually starts to effect people during their twenties with 75% of SAD sufferers being women.

In an article published in “You Magazine,” January 2008, SAD is the lack of sunlight in our lives and is more common with people who live in northern areas.

Hieronymus explains that some of the symptoms of SAD are having trouble getting out of bed, being teary-eyed and having trouble completing work.

To cope with SAD, Hieronymus offers some helpful suggestions. “Spend as much time outdoors as possible and to get sunlight on your skin. Sunlight plays a big role. So things like walking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing—anything that gets you out into the daylight is good.”

Hieronymus also suggests going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help set your internal clock and get your sleep schedule on a set schedule. She also says that exercising is the best way to help cope with this time of the year. “Exercising stretches the muscles and releases a chemical into the bloodstream that makes one feel better.”The SAC offers a variety of fitness programs through the semester for $2 each session or $35 for a semester pass. There are also classes offered for credit such as dance and yoga that will fulfill the general health and wellness requirement.