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a snow-covered landscape with trees

Winter is my least favorite season. The cold weather and shorter days make me want to hibernate, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way! Sluggishness and sleepiness, decreased energy, feeling less social, and changes in appetite are all symptoms of the “winter blues”. These symptoms can usually be managed through activities such as exercise, time outdoors, socialization and self-care. If you find that the winter blues are interfering with your ability to carry out daily activities, however, you may have a more serious form of the blues called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It usually begins in the fall, continues through the winter, and resolves in the spring. If you suspect that you have SAD, please be proactive and seek professional help.

For those of us who experience SAD or the winter blues, this season will be especially challenging as most of us have experienced or are currently experiencing the pandemic blues as well. In addition, some of the coping strategies we might normally use to beat the blues need to be modified due to the pandemic. For example, one of the strategies that experts recommend for beating the winter blues is interacting with friends and family regularly. If socializing with others is your primary coping strategy, it is important to understand potential risks of going out and what you can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of COVID-19 spread is directly related to how closely we interact with others and the length of those interactions. If you choose to socialize with others in person, you can reduce your risk by wearing a mask, maintaining a distance of at least six feet, and choosing to meet outdoors rather than indoors.

Gathering outdoors in the winter may seem like an unrealistic or unpleasant option, but that is not always the case! This year is the perfect opportunity to shift your mindset and try something new. In a New York Times parenting column on outdoor winter playdates, author Elisabeth Kwak-Heffran quotes British guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” This column provides numerous tips from winter athletes and professionals for bundling up and enjoying the outdoors in cold weather. While this column makes the case for getting outside in the winter to break cabin fever, an added benefit is that outdoor time is another recommend strategy for beating the winter blues.

Do you want additional strategies for beating the winter blues? Sign up for our free, four session webinar series that will be held on Friday mornings in January at go.osu.edu/beatingthewinterblues.

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Belmont County

Sources:

Carter, S. (2014). Beating the Winter Blues. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2014/02/19/beating-the-winter-blues/

Carter, S. (2020). Beating the Pandemic Blues. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/08/31/beating-the-pandemic-blues/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Deciding to go out. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html

Harmon, M. (2019). Fall: A SAD Time of Year. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Kwak-Heffran, E. (2020). Yes, your kids can play outside all winter. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/04/parenting/kids-winter-play-outside.html

Mayo Clinic (2017). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

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