7 ways to prepare for the coming cold months
Saying so long to summer is a painful goodbye for many New Yorkers.
In addition to those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder -- a clinical depression caused by lack of light -- people with family members who have seasonal depression and those with avoidance-oriented coping styles are most at risk for what is known as "seasonal variations in mood," said Dr. Prakash Masand, president of Global Medical Education.
NYC itself can put one at risk for winter gloom, as higher latitude locations correlate with higher rates of seasonal depression, Masand said. New Yorkers, who already struggling with high housing costs, killer commutes and overcrowding, may also dread the approach of weather-related hassles and high heating bills.
If you regret the end of summer, "take steps now to change your dread to anticipation," said Midtown psychotherapist Lisa Brateman. "If you have something to look forward to, your mood will improve."
What to do? Here are a few ways to beat the end-of-summer blues:
Use your banked vacation days for a sunny getaway and plan now to vamoose during the month you hate most. "If you know you're prone to depressive episodes in winter, your vacations should be in sunny places during the winter months," said Masand.
"Let go of your notions" about taking shelter when the mercury drops, Brateman said. Plan a weekend in the Adirondacks, at the Delaware Water Gap or some similarly scenic place to grok at the pumpkin piles, hike in the falling leaves or kayak. Exercise is one of the most potent mood elevators known to science, so arrange your getaway to center on physical exertion, said Masand.
Fortify your friendships.
Pick up the phone or send emails to arrange serious catch-ups with relatives and friends. Spending time in the company of people you love will remind you that happiness is not weather-dependent.
Up your vitamins.
Many Americans are unknowingly deficient in Vitamin D -- a particular problem when skin is not exposed to the sun. "It's difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food," so supplements may be in order, said Masand. Supplements containing Omega-3 fatty acids and the complex of B vitamins can't hurt, either.
Celebrate the seasons.
Remember how excited you were as a kid to get new school clothes? Commemorate the transition of summer to fall with some snappy boots, a spiffy new parka or other cold weather gear so you can bear the "brrrrr" with brio. (Few things are as depressing as debt, so make sure to budget and comparison shop before you spend.)
Anticipate medical issues.
Some people hate winter because it is always accompanied by dry skin or sinus problems. Take the time now to lay in some body oils and goopy skin creams, eye drops, nasal sprays or whatever else will make you feel more functional in the coming days of dry air.
Move to Hawaii.
Seriously. If you are reliably depressed in winter and typically chipper in summer, you might need a sun-soaked place to keep up your spirits. Moving from a cold climate to a warm and sunny one "can decrease the rate of depression by 40% -- that's twice the effectiveness of anti-depressants," said Masand.