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Don't Let Winter Gloom Sidetrack Healthy Habits

Even a little exercise can help folks combat the winter blues. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
Even a little exercise can help folks combat the winter blues. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
December 12, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. - With temperatures dropping, a few tips can help Oregonians prepare themselves for the winter months.

While days are growing gloomier and shorter, clinical social worker Laura Heesaker at Jackson Care Connect said it's important to stay positive. She said people should be clear about their health goals and stay dedicated to them. That could mean getting outside for sunlight, eating healthy or exercising. Whatever you do, Heesaker said, have realistic expectations. For instance, folks might be used to running for an hour - but that might be hard in the winter cold.

"Don't let the 'perfect' get in the way of the 'good.' Maybe you can shoot for a mindset over the winter of 'good enough.' What would good enough look like? Maybe it's just getting outside for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes," she said.

Health professionals also suggest exercising indoors. Sunlight is key, even if it's filtered through the clouds, because natural light controls mood-regulating hormones. People with conditions such as arthritis, diabetes or Parkinson's disease that make it hard to stay warm should speak with a medical professional about how to prepare for winter.

Heesaker said primary-care doctors can help if the winter blues start setting in. She noted that a growing number of mental-health experts are working alongside primary-care providers, adding that everyone - even those without a mental-health diagnosis - can benefit from their knowledge. She said they have a range of treatments at their disposal.

"There are supplements that they can recommend, there's blood tests; getting your vitamin D checked," she said. "For some people, maybe there's an antidepressant that would be effective."

Especially for people who are prone to feeling depressed during winter, Heesaker said, taking even small steps toward being healthy can make a huge difference.

"Oftentimes," she said, "it's the activity, the behavior - the moving one foot in front of the other towards that which is important - that changes our thinking about the situation."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR