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Published: Sunday, December 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Ideas for weathering the dark, sneezy days of winter

  • Chicken soup is a winter staple.

    Associated Press file photo

    Chicken soup is a winter staple.

Every winter, it's like the Seven Dwarfs.
Dopey. Grumpy. Sneezy. Sleepy. Doc. We'll get to Happy and Bashful later.
It's a dark season of sniffles, fever, overeating and lethargy. Psychologist Paul Schoenfeld, director of behavioral health at The Everett Clinic, estimates 33 million Americans have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, aptly nicknamed SAD.
Even those who aren't SAD can have a hard time coping. The lack of light turns ordinarily energetic people into sloths. As Schoenfeld put it: "It's an energy crisis."
By midafternoon, it's as if someone has taken a giant marker and blackened all the windows. The clock says 5 p.m., but our bodies think it's midnight.
Mornings are hell. We crawl out of bed feeling foggy. It's hard to concentrate, much less stay awake. We'd all be snoring at our desks … if not for co-workers coughing and sneezing.
But it doesn't have to be a season of discontent.
Winter is also the time of holiday fun, family memories, festive meals and indoor frolic. There are so many reasons to be happy. Don't be bashful. Go out and shake it on the dance floor.
Exercise so your figure doesn't start looking like one of the Seven Dwarfs.

Winter toolkit
  • Facial tissues. Pocket packs are handy for yourself and to hand out to others.
  • Chicken soup. Hot, soothing broth really does make you feel better.
  • Cozy socks and gloves. Pamper your hands and feet.
  • Humidifier. Cool streams of moisture aren't just for babies.
  • Water. Drink lots of it. Soak in it: Relax in a hot bath.
  • Artificial sun lamp. Energy lights, glow lamps and rise-and-shine clocks brighten up the long, dark days.
  • Chapstick. It comes in many flavors, shapes, sizes and colors. Gloss it on as lipstick. Roll it on dry, chapped fingers.
  • Body lotion. Rub, smear and spray it on. Have your partner help.
  • Sunblock. Exposure isn't a summer-only concern. It happens year-round, even here. The dangerous rays pass though rain, clouds and car windows. Use a moisturizer or foundation with an SPF of at least 15. If you don't do it for your health, do it for your looks. Research backs the cosmetic value of sunscreen. It might be the cheapest and most effective anti-aging beauty cream on the planet.
How to stay healthy
Here are some ways to stay healthy and jolly during the winter:
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Keep your distance from ill people; avoid crowds during a flu epidemic.
  • Don't bite your nails. Fingertips are a magnet for germs. Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth.
  • Turn away from others when they cough or sneeze. Turn away from others when you cough or sneeze. (This is when those pocket packs of tissues come in handy.)
  • Get plenty of rest to recharge your body and keep defenses strong.
  • If someone in the house is sick, use paper cups and paper towels in bathrooms.
  • Don't let your nose or mouth touch public drinking fountains.
  • Sanitize your hands after using shopping carts and public keyboards. Many stores have dispensers mounted on the wall.
  • Exercise. Do something. Anything. You don't have to moan and sweat. You can dance and laugh. Most gyms have treadmills with TVs. Plug in the earbuds and an hour will fly by.
  • Take vitamin D3 daily.
  • Get out. Walk in the rain. Any natural light is a benefit.
  • Not all light is a good thing. Beware of spending too much time in bright and shiny places that lure you in, such as nightclubs, malls and casinos.
  • Happiness is good for your immune system. Try to smile. Watch a comedy. Even a dark comedy.
  • Escape. Go somewhere sunny.
Story tags » Preventative medicineWellness

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