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6 Ways Alaskans Can Beat the "Winter Blues"

Are you tired more often than not?

Does it seem as if you’re constantly trying to catch up?

Are you struggling get through the day, get a good night’s rest, or feel connected to friends or family?

Have you tried to solve the problems in your life on your own and realized you need help from someone else?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to keep reading. I know seeking help can be hard. You've likely been debating seeking help for months, but I’m so glad you have taken the courageous step of being here. 

The days are short and dark.  Most Alaskans are familiar with “SAD,” known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression. It is estimated that 1 in 20 people living in the United States experience SAD. Most of them probably live in Alaska right now*

*This joke is not supported by research

SAD often begins during the fall or winter, though some people may develop SAD during the spring or summer. 

Since most people tend to develop SAD  around winter, it's often associated with the saying, "winter blues." 


6 Ways to Beat the “Winter Blues”


1. Monitor your sleep

Whether you notice you are sleeping too much or sleeping too little, it’s important to maintain a regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene

“Sleep hygiene” is the term used to describe healthy behaviors over time that maintain restful sleep and sleep satisfaction.

I’m sure you already know not to watch TV or doom scroll at least an hour before you want to fall asleep… and to avoid hitting the snooze button in the morning, so I won’t remind you!

Another helpful tool for those us living in northern climates, depressed or not, are  “SAD” lamps: they work.


2. Eat nutritiously

I’m sure you’ve already heard this one, and for good reason. 

It’s natural for our bodies to crave more sugar and carbs this time of year- it is cold, our bodies are burning more energy just to stay warm and when you’re feeling down, that sugar rush makes your brain feel "happy!"

Adding more ruffage into meals and breaking out any leftover berries from last summer in the freezer probably won't hurt either. 

While you're in the freezer... Salmon makes a great source of nutrients too, and salmon supports brain health!


3. Get active!

Move your body, get your blood flowing, and most importantly: be realistic and be kind to yourself. 

This is not the time to start a new diet, set a weight loss goal, think negative thoughts about your body size or shape, this is the time to think kind thoughts about your body!

When people are depressed or are experiencing SAD, it is common to notice a decrease in physical activity.

Maybe don’t sign up for a marathon, but try and go for a walk around your block every night this week, or if you have limited mobility try to incorporate accessible movements like chair yoga.

The research is clear: moving your body has positive impacts on your health.


4. Talk to a friend      

Feeling connected with other people has benefits, and people who are depressed tend to feel alone or isolated. 

People who are depressed tend to withdrawl from relationships or friendships unintentionally, which can make someone feel more lonely.

Humans are social beings and evolved a need to maintain sense of connection for a reason: feeling part of a community is important beneficial to our health


5. Spend time in nature

Go outside! The saying, “go touch grass” isn’t quite accessible this time of year in Alaska, so unless you have an upcoming trip planned close to the equator, try touching snow?

Study after study highlights the benefits of spending time in nature: improved cognitive functioning, decrease in stress, feeling more alert, to name a few.

Alaskans know we live in an absolutely gorgeous place: Go get those benefits yourself!


6. Seek professional help        

While the points above are helpful, they may not be enough.

As the lead clinician of Stellar Insight Counseling, I utilize telehealth (also known as "virtual therapy") year-round to provide psychotherapy to Alaskans. We will work together to help find the necessary tools to help you face and overcome your challenges conveniently via telehealth. 

Whether you're struggling with depression, difficulty managing emotions, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it is important that you know you don't have to be alone. 

If you suspect you may be depressed, call today for a free screening interview

We will work together to understand the root cause of your struggles and address them with long-lasting strategies.

If you're ready to work towards the life you've always wanted, I’m ready when you are. Learn more about what types of therapy I provide here.


This information is not meant to be taken as medical/mental health treatment or advice, it was written to provide general information. 

This information is not meant to be used to diagnose yourself or someone else. Readers may use the information as they wish for their own self-help or self-improvement. 

I am a pre-licensed master’s level psychotherapist working under the supervision of a board approved psychologist; please learn more about that here.


Sources:

(n.d.). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/seasonal-affective-disorder

Booker, J. M., & Hellekson, C. J. (1992, September 1). Prevalence of seasonal affective disorder in Alaska. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1503129/

Campbell, P. D., Miller, A. M., & Woesner, M. E. (2017). Bright light therapy: Seasonal affective disorder and ceyond. The Einstein journal of biology and medicine : EJBM, 32, E13–E25.

Health benefits of physical activity for children, adults, and adults 65 or older. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/health-benefits-of-physical-activity.html

Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between nature exposure and health: A review of the evidence. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(9), 4790. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094790

Pezirkianidis C, Galanaki E, Raftopoulou G, Moraitou D and Stalikas A (2023) Adult friendship and wellbeing: A systematic review with practical implications. Front. Psychol. 14:1059057. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1059057

Scott, A. J., Webb, T. L., Martyn-St James, M., Rowse, G., & Weich, S. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 60, 101556. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556

Spritzler, J., & Meeks, S. (2023, October 25). Salmon nutrition and health benefits. PubMed. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salmon-nutrition-and-health-benefits#1

Meet Nicole Zegiestowsky, M.S.

My name is Nicole (she/her), and as a therapist I believe that each client is the expert in his/her/their own life. 

I actively incorporate our relationship, the “therapeutic alliance,” into sessions. I treat issues like PTSD, trauma, depression, parent-child relationships, and anxiety. I work with men, women, and nonbinary Alaskans either through online counseling services or outdoor walking therapy in Anchorage.

It is a privilege to enter a healing relationship with another person and share the process of psychotherapy; I hope to be part of your recovery.

Prior to private practice, I’ve provided outpatient and residential psychotherapy services to individuals across the lifespan through community mental health, interdisciplinary family medicine, and tribal health agencies.