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Winter Weather Getting You Down? How to Beat the Winter Blues

February 24, 2015

You just heard the weather and the forecast isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear. More snow!

You’re feeling cooped up, sick and tired of shoveling, or afraid to venture outdoors on icy sidewalks or snow-covered roads. Enough is enough!

Relax, you’re not alone, according to Dr. Benjamin Liptzin, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center.

“It’s not unusual for folks both old and young to experience some degree of what many refer to as the ‘winter blues or doldrums,’ especially during a snowy, cold winter like we’ve been experiencing this year,” says Dr. Liptzin.

While it may be unsafe, especially for the elderly, to venture outdoors in the cold weather with slippery sidewalks and roadways, it doesn’t mean people have to become hermits.

“Invite friends over to your house or apartment if you can’t get out yourself. Also, family members should check in more with their elderly relatives and make an extra effort to visit them during the long days of winter, or at least try to call them more,” says Dr. Liptzin.

The Baystate psychiatrist also recommends staying active.

“For those who are able, exercise can raise your spirits and improve your energy. If you can’t get outdoors to the gym or to take a walk or run in the cold winter’s air, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home to keep you physically and mentally fit,” says Dr. Liptzin.

“Although you may prefer to go shopping or to the movies, if you can’t get outdoors, then find other things to keep you busy. Read a good book. Turn on the television and have a marathon catching up on your favorite shows. Listen to the radio. Call your friends who enjoy talking on the telephone. Or even get a head start on your spring cleaning,” he adds.

Also, something to consider if you plan on kicking back and relaxing with a nice hot toddy or other alcoholic beverage.

“If your mood is already sullen, alcohol, which is actually a depressant, can makes it worse,” says Dr. Liptzin.

“And, remember, it could always be worse. You might be stuck in Boston right now surrounded by more than 80 inches of snow. So, this too will pass and spring isn’t far behind,” he adds.

If self-treatments aren’t helping, and you are feeling sad, crying, not eating, or have a general feeling of hopelessness, call your primary care physician who can see you or recommend a mental-health professional.