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For Starters | Battling Blue Monday

Welcome to Blue Monday!

That’s us trying to put a smile on the most depressing day of the year, as it’s referred to by some mental health experts.

The holiday bills need to be paid, New Year’s resolutions are in the toilet and winter has us by the throat.

Blechh.

No wonder so many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a type of depression that, in most cases, rears its gloomy head in late fall and early winter. You might be experiencing it if you’re: dragging yourself out of bed, getting drowsy during the day, eating and eating and

eating

, craving carbs (especially sweets) and gaining weight.

Bouts of SAD generally range from mild to moderate in severity. Patients rarely need hospitalization, says psychiatrist Robert Auger, a sleep specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

But, if those blues start affecting your work or social relationships, you feel hopeless, you’re drinking to feel better or you think of hurting yourself, you should see a doctor, quickly, Auger says. He offers these tips:

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Get outside.

There is no substitute for natural light. If you work during the day, go for a walk outside during a break or lunch.

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Use a light therapy box indoors when the weather is bad.

Newer units are about the size of a book. The Mayo Clinic is conducting a study comparing blue and yellow light sources. Want to participate? Call 507-284-5914.

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Exercise — regularly.

That means at least three times a week for 30 minutes.

• Be a social butterfly.

Interact regularly with family and friends — in person. “I personally do not believe that electronic communications can substitute for face-to-face interactions, although this is presumably better than no interactions at all,” Auger says.

Lisa Gutierrez, lgutierrez@kcstar.com

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