Jan 13, 2023 - News

How to beat Ohio's wintertime blues

Illustration of a cloud in the shape of a brain raining on an open umbrella

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

No, it's not just you — this winter has been really gray and gloomy.

What's happening: Columbus hasn't had a day of clear, cloudless skies since Dec. 4, per National Weather Service data.

  • And based on last year's records, we shouldn't expect to see the sun regularly until May.
  • … sigh.

Why it matters: Our Midwest climate of cold temperatures and reduced daylight makes all of us more vulnerable to feeling the wintertime blues.

  • An estimated 5% of Americans deal with a more serious winter depression that significantly impairs daily function: seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

How it works: Some symptoms are physical, such as feeling run down or tired, and others are psychological, like mood changes and social withdrawal.

  • It's not clear what causes the condition, but researchers believe the day-night cycle changes affect our brain chemicals and is exacerbated by vitamin D deficiencies, per the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Women are affected more often than men.

Yes, but: Luckily, some lifestyle changes can make the milder wintertime blues more manageable, Samar McCutcheon, a psychiatrist with Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, tells Axios.

Her tips:

🛌 Maintain a daily routine, including a set bedtime.

🧘 Exercise both your brain and body through activities like meditation and yoga.

🍷 Avoid alcohol and drugs.

💡 Try light therapy for 30 minutes daily.

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Increase social activity.

⏰ Make these changes early as a preventative measure. The end of daylight saving time, in November, is usually a good time to begin.

The bottom line: If you're experiencing a major depressive episode, talk to your doctor to explore further treatments, McCutcheon says.

The bright side: We've gained a few more minutes of daylight every day since Dec. 21.

  • Just 159 days to go until summer!

📬 We want to know: What helps you get through these dreary Midwestern winters? Email [email protected]. We'll all get through this together.

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