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Even SAD-der to See Flu Season Again

Add leftover COVID risks and fall thru winter brings extra dangers

We've given folks great advice on coping with the pandemic bug for close to two years now. And of course now's the time of year we start emphasizing you MUST remember a more traditional danger: flu season.

Indeed, throughout COVID we had to remind everyone that flu isn't something to pooh-pooh. While July of 2021 saw we'd passed the 600,00 deaths from that infection, flu still keeps holding strong. Over 22,000 died from flu during the 2019-20 season and 38 million were in the hospital. (CDC report)

But there's one other thing that starts hitting during a fall season and all the way through spring. It's very SAD--literally.

Darkness = Depression

You see, it's called "Seasonal Affective Disorder"--and now you see those initials do make us S-A-D. It's a point of time each year when people truly slow down. They can't keep up with most of life's day-to-day commitments for work, family, or pleasure.

Winter's always been a SAD time for many--but there are tools to help

We given folks great advice on coping with the pandemic bug for close to three years now. And of course now's the time of year we start emphasizing you MUST remember a more traditional danger: flu season.n..

As the Mayo Clinic's experts point out, "don't brush that...feeling as a case of the 'winter blues'" that you need to just tough out. This is an actual form of depression. It's only major difference is that it tends to happen--over and over--at a specific point of time during the calendar year. For most folks it is the fall/winter period, though there some people who lose their spunk through the spring/summer seasons.

Gain Recognition

The Clinic warns everyone to keep an eye out for these symptoms, especially if you can admit it's happened beyond one year's time period:

  • Having less (if any) interest in activities you used to enjoy. This past spring, as better COVID news kept growing, a lot of us started getting our pep back. Maybe you're one of us--but you can't keep holding onto it as the nights get shorter again.

  • Feeling sluggish or agitated. Two opposites, but you could feel either one--or both.

  • Feeling totally "down in the dumps," or whatever term you've heard for sadness--and it doesn't feel any better when you wake up the next day.

  • Overeating--This is the time you may truly start grabbing the carbs. That's enough of a problem in normal times, but if you're one of those who put on 20-plus pounds from being stuck at home and carb grabbing those first two years of COVID, you could be more likely to succumb to SAD.

Finding Ways to Feel Better

Fortunately there are a number of ways to you can move through winter without feeling too down:

  • Look for (or revitalize) indoor/outdoor hobbies. Do you adore cooking shows or DIY? Why not do some of that for yourself? Start with easier things like making a new pasta dish, or hanging a new picture. Find Facebook pages of groups who share your interest for new ideas and can provide great support. Or get gardening insights--and then shop for seeds and other things that'll prep you for spring. Gained weight? There are tons of support groups, be they just folks chatting online or official weight loss programs.

  • Consider a light box. Actually called "phototherapy" these are actually table-top units with a specific type of lighting. (And no, it's not just regular light bulbs!) There's a whole range and a unit doesn't have to be too expensive. The Mayo Clinic offers great understanding about this therapy and how to choose your unit.

  • Look into dawn simulators. Set these "alarm clocks" and instead of ringing, they bring light into your bedroom ... but a little at a time, like the sun rising. Studies show that if your SAD is mild, these can help as well as light boxes.

  • Ask your doctor about medications--If none of the above work, and neither has anything else you've tried (after careful research and/or doctor chats), then ask about anti-depressants. Find out about drug interactions, and also how long to take this drug; i.e., can you use it only during winter's dark days?

I hope this--and your research and even doctor chat--gets you through this season. And remember ... our days are already getting longer! ####

Wendy Meyeroff has been a health writer for over 25 years. She got to add in tech and also a special niche: writing for/about exploding senior market, long before most folks were paying attention to that age group. That's why happy clients include Apple, NIH, Merck, Erickson Living, Sears, and CBS.

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