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Winter doldrums

  • John Trubee plays his electric guitar to chase away the winter doldrums, at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., on January 24, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

People get depressed during the winter, even in California. The days get shorter, and there's less light, even on sunny days.

But with blizzards sweeping other parts of the country, Californians don't always think they have the right to feel a little low.

When we asked readers how they coped with winter doldrums during an unseasonably sunny January, Doug Sanders of Petaluma raised the obvious question:

"Doesn't there have to be a winter for you to have the 'winter blues?'" he wrote.

But mental health experts say that many people still feel depressed this winter, despite weeks of daily afternoon sunshine. Recently, dark skies and light rain arrived, and yet drought fears remain to add worry to a low mood. It's even more important now to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically.

"Sometimes, feeling low between November and March is more than just the 'winter blues' or cloudy-rainy weather fatigue," said Roger Hock, director of the psychology department at Mendocino College in Ukiah.

"Some people are feeling down this winter in California, where we seem to be experiencing an endless summer this year," Hock added. "A diagnosable type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects up to 10 million Americans a year."

The holidays and the parties are over. Next summer, with its outdoor fun, festivals, beach parties and backyard barbecues, is still a long way off.

"Life in the winter is set up for indoor activities, even if it's nice outside. The daylight hours are still shorter," said psychologist Bert Epstein, assistant director of Santa Rosa Junior College's Student Health Services Mental Health Program.

People still need to eat and sleep well, and get outside of the house to exercise and socialize.


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