The winter blues dangerous after window of warm weather
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
The relatively warmer weather Tuesday and Wednesday may have lured many people into a false sense of hope for spring, and that has local mental health professionals concerned.
With snow melting and birds singing Wednesday afternoon, many people in Dubuque were out and about - some in nothing more than a sweatshirt.
Sharon Dahl was taking advantage of the weather by shoveling away some of the snow melting at the base of her driveway.
"It just feels nice! It makes you feel energized and you want to get out, you know. You're getting kind of tired of being in," she said. "I just feel like getting up and moving, actually going out for a walk."
Tim Boffeli is an associate professor of psychology at Clarke University in Dubuque, as well as the psychology department chair. He said people should enjoy the day of nice weather but not let it generate false hopes.
"It's nice, they start having this unrealistic expectation that winter is over and that their mood is going to rebound, and so they start getting a little more active, getting busy, start planning for spring, and then the bad weather comes back," he said. "The cold weather is coming around again because it's only February."
As a licensed mental health counselor, Boffeli said people can help beat the winter blues through face-to-face interaction.
"The social conversation is a natural anti-depressant," he said. "It just gets our mood boosted, it gets our endorphins going, and at the end of it we can say, 'Ah! That was good, I want to do that again.'"
He also encourages positive self-talk.
"That's one of the cheapest things that you can do," he said, giving an example. "'I am a warm, friendly, kind, caring individual, and because I'm warm, caring, kind, I can get out there and be a blessing in other people's lives.'"
However, Boffeli said, anybody with major depression or seasonal affective disorder who is having trouble weathering this winter should reach out for help.
"Seasonal affective disorder is a highly treatable condition, so either with psychotherapy, just to keep people's minds right, in terms of that, 'this is a temporary experience, I need to be busy with my hobbies, I need to get out and about and be with my friends, I need to just engage life, even though my mood is low,'" he said.
A friend, doctor or clergy member, for example, can all provide a lifeline.
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