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5 ways winter affects your health


Winter—especially in areas like the Midwest—can seem like the longest season of all. Aside from the stress of hearing snowbunnies and sun lovers debate the merits and setbacks of the snow and icy season, there are a few winter health issues to be wary of as well.

1. The winter blues
Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? SAD is a type of depressive disorder that is brought on by winter’s shorter days—with early sunsets and late sunrises, the lack of natural sunlight causes some to experience increased sleepiness, increased appetite, a heavy sensation in the limbs, loss of interest, a sense of hopelessness and social withdrawal. The endorphins gained from exercise can be helpful with SAD symptoms, as can light therapy, which uses a special lamp to make up for missing natural sunlight. Make sure to speak with your provider if you experience these symptoms.

2. Winter dry eye
Between the cold, dry air and the dryness from indoor heating (especially space heaters), winter can often be a time of burning, itching eyes. These symptoms, along with a feeling of grittiness, indicate that your eyes are not producing enough tears to keep them comfortably moist. Dry eyes can be relieved with artificial tears, using a cool-mist humidifier and eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such fish and flax seed. In severe cases, a procedure that closes the ducts that drain tears from the surface of the eyes may be needed.

3. Dry skin
In addition to dry eyes, winter’s cold air and low humidity can also cause severely dry and cracked skin. A cool-mist humidifier is also helpful in this situation, as is taking shorter showers and skipping baths, which tend to exacerbate dry skin. A good moisturizer is key during cold months, and don’t skimp on places like elbows and feet, which are especially prone to dryness and painful, cracked skin. Use a moisturizer with SPF—even if the sun isn’t out long during winter months, its rays can still cause damage. Continue Reading »

Facts about depression

depressionEveryone has a bad day or a case of the blues once in a while, but when “the blues” result in experiencing little or no joy in your daily life, it may be an indication of something more serious. Chronic sadness or depression is something that lingers for quite some time and is difficult to shake off if untreated.

Here are some facts about depression that you may not know:

  • Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide
  • Women suffer from depression twice as often as men
  • Many people suffer with depression but do not seek help
  • Depression is treatable Continue Reading »

National Depression Screening Day


Oct. 10 is National Depression Screening Day, a day to help call attention to screening opportunities for people with depression and anxiety disorders. Affinity Health System is dedicated to helping raise awareness about depression and other mood disorders and has joined forces with community partners in the Fox Valley to speak out.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide. People with depression may not feel comfortable talking with family, friends or colleagues about how they feel and often hide it from those around them. They may believe they just need to “toughen up” and that depression will go away by itself, but what they really need is to get help or seek treatment. Continue Reading »

Shedding light on SAD

Shedding light on SAD

Been feeling blue since winter set in? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by lack of sunlight. In areas of the country like Wisconsin where winter days are cold and short and leave little opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, SAD is not uncommon. It affects up to 20 percent of the population, mostly women in their 20s and 30s. Learn to recognize the signs of SAD in your workplace so you can prevent productivity from dropping with the temps.

SAD Facts
“Lack of sunlight interrupts the sleep-wake cycle – called circadian rhythms – and it can also drain the body’s levels of serotonin, a brain chemical affecting mood,” says Daniel Neunaber, PhD, psychologist with Affinity Health System. SAD is often treated with light therapy. “For half an hour a day, sufferers can sit in front of a special light box that mimics the sun and signals the brain to produce more serotonin, lifting mood and relieving symptoms of SAD,” says Dr. Neunaber.
SAD Symptoms
SAD usually occurs between November and February, winter’s darkest months. Symptoms start to ease when spring weather returns in March or April. Common complaints include:
  • grumpy, anxious or irritable mood
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • daytime drowsiness
  • changes in appetite, weight or sleep habits

As with other forms of depression, these symptoms appear in the workplace in the form of poor job performance, calling in sick or squabbling with co-workers. How can you help?

Use Your EAP
If you suspect an employee is suffering from seasonal affective disorder, encourage him to get help. “Counselors can offer coping strategies for people struggling with seasonal depression and its related effects,” says Donna Schmitz, EAP counselor for Affinity Health System. If further support or treatment is needed, your EAP can connect SAD sufferers with more resources.

Create a Bright Spot
If possible, provide places for employees to soak in some natural light. It’s best if lunch rooms and break areas have windows, but if that’s not an option, try adding more lights to the space. “Dimly lit rooms only compound the problem,” says Dr. Neunaber.  

Break the Cabin Fever
It may be cold outside, but you don’t have to cease all outdoor activities until spring. Start a winter walking club and venture out for brisk strolls on milder days. The natural light and exercise can be therapeutic.

For more information, visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/page/services-specialty-occupational

What exactly are those baby blues?

It’s nothing that we really like to talk about, but something that we certainly should. About 90 percent of women will have postpartum blues of some sort.

It seems to creep in a few days after birth, and you’ll find yourself crying for no reason, sleeping even worse than you’d expect with a newborn, or truly doubt that you can care for your baby. Most new moms experience this to some degree, but this is just a bit more than you might expect.

So, when should you start worrying that it might be something you need to talk to your doctor about? I get worried when those feelings don’t fade after about a week, or when the new mom doesn’t seem to be functioning well.

It can worsen to a full postpartum depression, and this is where you have really strong feelings of despair, sadness and anxiety and can’t accomplish routine daily tasks that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. I also pay attention to times when moms are overly concerned about their baby, especially when they wake up and routinely check on the baby. This is an unknown but common sign of postpartum depression. Continue Reading »

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