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Are you SAD? Monarch expert shares ways to overcome the Winter Blues

Judith Chappell headshot 2017Ever find yourself dreading the time change each fall? Do the long, cold winter nights seem endless? If you feel this way year after year, you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Judith Chappell headshot 2017According to the Cleveland Clinic, a small percentage of the population — about 4 to 6 percent — may have SAD during the winter months.

“It has to do with the loss of sunlight,” says Judith Chappell, MA, LCAS, LPC, CSI, CSOTS, a behavioral health therapist at Monarch and clinical operations manager in the Stanly office. “I have patients who will tell me, ‘Every year at this time, I get the blahs and I don’t understand this.’ When the time changes and we’re spending more of our waking hours in darkness, people can be affected.”

This can happen especially if you enjoy being outdoors, explained Chappell. “If you’re a person who’s been used to being outside all summer, the dark and cold can really make a big difference. For some people, it’s just really a stark contrast.”

If you’re wondering how to combat these “blahs” we sometimes feel during the fall and winter months, here are some tips:

  • Increase natural sunlight. Chappell recommends bundling up and going outside for a walk or run, for about 30 minutes or so. Around 10 a.m. seems to be the optimal time of day to get the most sunlight. And increasing the amount of time you exercise, Chappell points out, is always a good idea.
  • When you’re inside, sit near a window as often as you can. There are also therapy lights available, which some patients find are helpful.
  • Learn to enjoy the winter weather. Go out with friends whether it’s light or dark.
  • Stay on a regular routine, keeping your sleeping habits the same, and choose healthful foods. Eating too many sweets or carbohydrates can increase SAD symptoms.
  • Talk with your doctor about whether taking a Vitamin D supplement is right for you.
  • For people who run year-round, Chappell recommends making sure to wear reflective gear if running in the early morning or evening hours.

“I have bright light in my office, and it’s awesome,” Chappell said.

If you suspect you have SAD, Chappell says, don’t try to self-diagnose the condition, but check in with a counselor or therapist. “It’s always a good idea to do an assessment of what’s happening, and make sure the symptoms you’re having are not clinical depression.”

For those who need support, Monarch’s Open Access service allows individuals who are new to Monarch to simply walk-in for the first visit. For details or to schedule an appointment, call Monarch at (866) 272-7826.
To see a series of other related tips from our experts, Click Here to check out our January Facebook video campaign, "Battling the Winter Blues."

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