Health Secondary Story

Sue Ann Says: The winter blues and beyond

This winter has been cold.  I like Wisconsin’s four seasons, I like watching my grandchildren playing with their sleds outside, and I like seeing a soft snow fall to the ground.  However, it is cold…and dark.   Lately, I have found myself feeling less active and energetic than I was during years when we enjoyed milder winters.  While many of us have come to accept mood and activity changes when winter arrives, it is important to be aware of the “winter blues” and seek help when necessary.

Many women experience the “winter blues,” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), with symptoms building up in the late autumn and winter months.  Women who do not normally suffer from depression may be affected by the decreased exposure to sunlight.  Like other forms of depression, SAD is more common in women than in men.  Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, increased appetite and weight gain, increased sleep, less energy, sluggish movements, unhappiness and irritability.

However, for some women, these feelings can continue throughout the year and SAD has the potential to progress into long-term depression.  While there is no quick fix for depression, help is available and recovery is possible.  Our friends at Wisconsin United for Mental Health work tirelessly to spread the message that depression is real, common, and treatable.

How to move forward if you are struggling with SAD or depression?

  1. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.  They can advise what types of therapy and medications will be the most effective to treat your symptoms.  Seeking help may be the hardest part of battling depression, so congratulate yourself for taking this step and being willing to move forward.
  2. Manage symptoms at home:
    • Get enough sleep
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Exercise often
    • Look for activities that make you smile
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  3. Use your support system.  When you are struggling with depression, it often helps to talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust.​​
  4. Build new social supports.  Don’t have a strong support system today?  You are not alone.  Many women feel isolated and lonely.  Start by thinking of one person you would like to reconnect with, or who you might like to befriend. Reach out to them in a way that feels comfortable for you (text, phone, card, Facebook, email – make a connection and start a conversation).  We know that building social supports can be exhausting for women who are struggling with depression.  Check out our website or the list in this article to find out where to find more help.

This winter, I encourage you to take the time to think about your mental health and be aware of depressive symptoms from the women you care about.  Together, we can provide support, encouragement, and care to move forward and recover from depression.

Because it all begins with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection of diseases that affect women the most; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-448-5148. 

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