How to Overcome the “Winter Blues”

Over 50 inches of snow and below-zero conditions can take toll on mental health

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.880.4785
Pager: 317.310.5972  
E-mail: todd.harper@eskenazihealth.edu
 
Indianapolis
, February 24, 2014 – Indiana’s long winter has brought with it record levels of snow, subzero conditions, and days upon days of weather delays and school cancelations. The weather has resulted in many people spending more time than normal inside the house and isolated from others.  

When you add all this up and factor in that winter typically brings a spike in mental health illnesses like depression, it is important for people to be aware of ways to keep their mood up as much as possible.   

“Winter can often be a difficult time for many, as we typically aren’t as active and engaged with others as the days get shorter and the nights longer,” explained Julie Szempruch, RN, a mental health specialist and associate vice president at Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health. “We have found that if we can combat some of the so-called negative aspects associated with winter, we can help reduce some of the negative side effects it can bring with it.”

Often termed seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the condition is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year and can result in depression and feeling “blue” during the winter months.  

Some ways to cope with the stress brought on by winter include:
  • Enjoying indoor activities, such as going to a museum or sporting event
  • Getting outside even for just a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air and sunlight
  • Spending time with supportive and caring people  
  • Thinking about or planning a summer trip
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
Mental health experts from Eskenazi Health Midtown acknowledge that some level of stress is normal but suggest that when someone feels overwhelmed for an extended period of time, help should be sought. Chronic stress may be a trigger for certain anxiety disorders and other illnesses.
       
Symptoms of depression include loss of enjoyment in daily activities, sleep disruption, loss of appetite, feeling sad or empty, guilt, and even thoughts of dying or suicide. Stress can also be a very serious health issue. Headaches, upset stomach, heart palpitations and nervousness are all symptoms of stress. Szempruch said that when left untreated, stress can also cause confusion, poor judgment, digestive problems and a suppressed immune system.

Eskenazi Health Midtown was established in 1969 as the first mental health center in Indiana and offers an array of mental health services, including severe mental illness and substance abuse treatment, 24-hour emergency services, a detoxification unit, a full continuum of care for people with chronic addiction, specialized home- and community-based programs for children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders, and a partial-hospitalization program. For more information about the services offered at Eskenazi Health Midtown, please call 317.880.8491.