The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 12, 2014

Snow and other four-letter words:

11 ways to survive the winter doldrums

That your weather forecast can be connected to your mental health is an established fact. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) diagnosis or not, the average Joe and Jane can find cold snaps like the one America recently survived down-right distressing.

This Jan. 6, coincidentally dubbed “Blue Monday” by British researchers evaluating depression, saw seratonin levels racing thermometers to hit rock bottom as an arctic vortex shattered record low temperatures. Add to the Siberian absence of sun, harried parents scampering to find child care or experiencing instant HAC promotions — (Home Activities Coordinator) — and the question becomes simple: How can we get through snow days with a little more class than, say, Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”?

“We all know being cooped up at home makes us all a little stir-crazy — frayed nerves, short tempers, sad moods. It’s true that during the winter we spend a whole lot more time in closed spaces, allowing us to spread both the flu and bad attitudes to the ones we love.

“Remember that bacteria is the only culture some people have,” observes Hamlet Smith, therapist and founder of Life Strategies Counseling Services Inc.

“Decreased sunlight, reduced movement and the same ol’ people can crash our immune systems physically and mentally.”

Smith offers here a few practical tips for beating the winter blues using beneficial four-letter words ... alternatives to ones we might be tempted to let out when we’re tired of breathing one another’s air. Savor these, and practice one a day before the next storm happens.

1. MOVE. “Our bodies are machines that were created for movement. Like any kind of equipment our body breaks down when it isn’t used. Clear off the exercise bike that has magazines stacked all over it and start pedaling. Anxiety’s primary enemy is movement. Anxiety paralyzes us, keeps us in the ‘what if’ mode instead of the ‘let’s do this’ mode. Simply attacking a chore or responsibility can stave off anxiety’s effects for hours.”

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