Health professionals explain how winters can impact your mental health

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) — Mental health professionals are sharing tips to improve your mood during our long winters. Colder weather, shorter days, and less physical activity can lead to increased anxiety or depression during the winter. Most know this as seasonal depression.

“We have a decrease in activity and naturally feel a little sluggish. Sometimes even sadder than normal,” said Cheryl Beauchamp, Director of Community Inclusion at Northpointe.

Health professionals say vitamin D deficiencies play a role in serotin levels. Improving your mood can start with your breathing.

“So stepping out to take five to 10 deep breaths can boost those endorphins and help you come back, focus, and focus better,” said Megan Riehl, a gastrointestinal clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan.

More extreme feelings of depression and anxiety during the winter could be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “SAD”

“When you start to lose interest in things you used to enjoy doing, or when you start feeling sad or depressed all the time, even though there’s no reason to. Another very common thing with the disorder seasonal affective is sleeping a lot more than usual,” said Jason Bombard, psychiatrist at the Aspirus Ironwood Clinic.

Bombard says those with SAD sleep an average of two hours more per night than in the warmer months. He says in UP, that at least 7-15% of people may suffer from some form of seasonal depression. He also says that women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. He thinks it is less reported by men. Bombard encourages men and women to talk about their mental health.

“Most of the time it goes undiagnosed, so it’s very difficult to say exactly how many people have this disorder,” Bombard said.

Treatment can range from taking medication to pursuing an outdoor hobby, such as skiing, or seeking mild supplements.

“Light therapy can be really helpful. A full-spectrum light or dawn simulator would be a Yooper’s best friend to help us get that feeling and trick our bodies into thinking we’re getting natural sunlight,” Beauchamp said.

Medical professionals say that if you have extreme negative feelings, you should tell your doctor.

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