Winter blues

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont, -- Winter is a fun time for many reasons, including winter sports, hunting and the holidays. But, it also comes with its own stressors. Some of these stressors include conflicts with family or being unable to see them, opportunities to drink too much alcohol or eat too many cookies, getting sick, bad weather, the stresses of travel, or the urge to overspend on gifts. Combined with the regular stresses of daily life, it’s easy to see why some people can start to feel down.

‘Tis the season for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a serious version of the winter blues (or blahs). SAD is a predictable pattern of low mood typically associated with the transition from autumn to winter. Evidence suggests the causes are largely biological. Montana, relative to the rest of the country, is far from the equator. Winter comes with short days, long nights and few good opportunities to get natural sunlight that helps avoid feeling down. All of the above contributes to SAD.

Symptoms of SAD can include becoming withdrawn, tired, irritable or overly sensitive; changes in sleeping or eating habits (yes, especially craving carbs); loss of interest in hobbies and negative thinking (hopeless, pessimistic, guilty or worthless). SAD looks a lot like other episodes of depression, and can lead to similar serious problems. These problems include difficulty functioning at work, school or home; thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone else; and using substances to cope with your mood.

There are effective treatments for SAD, among them: increased exposure to natural light, combatting negative thoughts, spending time outside, exercising, and making sure you get out to have some fun. You can also talk to your medical provider about a medication to help you get through the season.

In the Malmstrom Clinic, I’m a civilian psychologist located in the Family Health Clinic and can help with problems like these. My role is to provide you with a set of options, from which you may choose, to help handle whatever is troubling you. Common problems I help with include relationship difficulties, poor sleep, diet and exercise, anger, child behavior problems, and, of course, feeling depressed or anxious. I’m also a great place to start if you don’t know exactly what you need because you’ll leave my office with at least a few things you can do to help yourself through whatever is troubling you.

If you have problems functioning, thoughts of hurting anyone, or problems with alcohol or drugs, call the Malmstrom Clinic at 731-4633 to set up an appointment.

Don’t let this be the season for sadness. Seek treatment as soon as you realize that there is a problem, and with a little help, you can get back to feeling merry in less time than you think.
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