Weather contributing to Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Posted Monday, February 17, 2014 ------ 5:00 p.m.

If looking out your window makes you want to go into hibernation, you're not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a problem, especially this time of year when winter just won't go away, days are shorter and we're not getting that much sunlight.

But there are some ways to help you stay happy and healthy, even when old man winter has got you down. One resident says, "this weather has just gone on too long, it's gotta stop sometime! I mean look at it out here; it's gotta stop!!" It's the gift that keeps on giving, and this winter is breaking records. "This year so far has been the 10th coldest year on record in Madison, but it has been the coldest we've seen in 35 years," said Chief Meteorologist Charlie Shortino.

If you think there's no relief in sight, that outlook may be affecting your mood. "Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that is recurrent and occurs seasonally and occurs usually during the winter months," said UW Health Psychologist Shilagh Mirgain.

Doctors say symptoms of the winter blues include feeling down, fatigue, weight gain, sleep disruption and isolation. Dr. Mirgain adds, "it impacts 4% to 6% of the population but 10% to 20% have a milder form." But there are some things to do to make sure winter doesn't get the best of you; like hitting the weights and getting exercise. "This is very helpful to manage depression, and it can be as effective as medication for mild to moderate forms of depression," said Dr. Mirgain.

Also, watch what you eat; make your health a priority and stay connected. Dr. Mirgain adds, "social support really boosts your mood."

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