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Winter getting you down? Here's why

Some Minnesotans love it, some hate it, and some just want a break from our winter weather.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — From the ice, to the snow, to the polar vortex, it's been a solid two weeks of winter weather. 

"Well people are sick of it. Enough is enough," said Cheryl Bemel, an Allina Health psychologist. 

While the shorter daylight hours and lack of sunlight can impact how we feel in the wintertime, Bemel said people's attitudes toward the season can be based on many things, including someone's childhood experiences. 

"If you were raised in a family where winter was really a downer and there wasn't a lot of activity to do, that can become your mindset," Bemel said. "We also know that infants look to their parents—that's the term social referencing. So if a parent is happy about winter and planning activities... the children are more likely to take on that kind of mindset about winter." 

According to Bemel, genetics can also play a role in someone's perspective on winter. 

"Some people do a lot better with cold than others. It explains why one person can hold on to a can of soda pop and it doesn't phase them and the other, their fingers turn blue. So some of us are just wired more ably to cope with cold," Bemel said. 

While we can't change the weather, Bemel suggests changing our perspective. 

"It's fatiguing for many of us and in spite of the pile-on effect, we need to be able to untwist our thinking," Bemel said. Instead of seeing it as a cold, dreary winter day... I'm always coaching people about living in the moment. Many times when it's really, really cold outside, if I take a moment to look around, the sun is shining and it's beautiful and the sky is blue."

Bemel also said self-care is crucial. 

"When someone is really tired of winter, and of course it depends on their resources, but treat yourself. Whether that's to a cup of coffee or having... some cold drink to remind us of warmer weather," said Bemel, adding that it's also important to exercise regularly. 

"We like things to change and especially in these times with media and technology and everything is happening on screens, our brains are more likely to want things to change more quickly," Bemel said. "We need to realize that timing is everything and to everything there is a season." 

Bemel said there is a difference between having the winter blues and clinical depression. If you are having trouble getting back to your daily routine and it goes on for more than a week or two, Bemel recommends contacting your primary care provider or mental health provider. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can also impact people this time of year. According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD include oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain and tiredness or low energy. 

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