Tips to keep mind and body healthy in winter

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Tips to keep mind and body healthy in winter

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 3:52am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Winter’s short days and long nights can be festive and busy and stressful and lonely all at the same time. With the first full day of winter officially on Sunday, December 22, it’s time to prepare for the changes that impact every one of us as well as our friends and family members. The shortest day and longest night of 2019 occurs on Saturday, December 21, the winter solstice, something we probably won’t even notice because there has been less and less sunlight each day since September.  

Community Health Behavioral Health Practice Leader Christopher Chadwick says there are many ways to manage the changes, and actually learn to enjoy the days of winter.

Sleep, he says, is important. “Create a sleep strategy and stick to your schedule,” he said. “Turn off your phone, computer and TV one hour before going to bed. Remember that sleeping too little or too much can be unhealthy. Teenagers need about  8-10 hours daily, adults 7-9 hours.”

For some people, the effects of less sunlight begin in October and in the New England north (which includes us in Vermont!) it’s more common for people to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starting in fall and going into winter.  Chadwick says it’s best to check with your primary care provider if you think you are struggling with symptoms of SAD, which  is a “type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Treatment for SAD varies from using a light box to bring more light into your life during the long dark winter days to anti-depressant medications to maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D.

Dr Kelly Rohan at the University of Vermont is one year into a new “five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a clinical trial comparing light therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy treatments for SAD.  If people are willing to come to UVM to participate you can direct them to call us at 802-656-9890,” Rohan said. Rohan said the winter blues "are not all in your head" and her study is looking at a combination of treatments to help people manage their way through the seasonal changes.

Community Health's Chadwick said a winter wellness plan is a good way to begin. So, consider some of these suggestions:
  • Set up an exercise routine.We tend to reduce our energy levels and are less active in cold weather.
  • Don’t cut back on veggies and fruit. Find healthy recipes with winter vegetables. During the holidays when we tend to eat more sweets, breads and carbs.
  • When entertaining, provide delicious alternatives to alcoholic drinks.
  • Set aside time to relax. Note what helps you relax like reading, listening to music, taking a walk, taking a bath, getting a massage. Paint or color a picture, enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
  • Surround yourself with people who are healthy for you. Socializing can be a mood booster.
  • Limit time with stress inducing people, which may include family. Sometimes family or work situations can be stressful - be mindful of time spent at stressful activities and set a schedule prior to the event then stick to the time limits.
  • Get engaged in community events. Help someone. Share time. Volunteer.
  • Set a spending budget. People tend to overextend themselves during the holidays, or over shop online because they are bored. Setting limits gives you guidelines.
  • Keep things simple, and enjoy the basics. The holidays can put pressure on people for big parties and costly gifts. Focus on the simple things you enjoy.
  • Be safe and volunteer to be the designated driver. Don’t put yourself, your friends or your family in danger.
  • Give a friend or family member a call, especially if they are housebound or unable to attend an event.

Chadwick said if stressors or mental health issues become too much to handle, make an appointment to discuss the options with your primary care provider at any of our Community Health locations.

Community Health is the largest network of primary care, pediatric and dental services in Rutland and southern Addison counties with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham, Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Community Health's Express Care centers, open seven days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers. Behavioral health providers are available at all Community Health locations.

Source: Rutland – Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region. The mission of the Community Health (Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region) is to improve the health and wellness of all people in the communities we serve by providing access to excellent medical and dental primary care regardless of any financial consideration. Check our website  or Facebook for more details, hours and locations.