Three ways to feel your best all winter long

The winter blues. The winter doldrums. Seasonal depression. We have all sorts of terms to describe just how miserable this time of the year can be. One of the best ways to beat the winter blues is by focusing on your health and wellness.

“There are a few things we all know we should do to stay healthy throughout the winter,” said Kenneth Szekely, MD, a Family Medicine Physician with Penn Highlands Healthcare in California, Pennsylvania. “Wash your hands regularly, get your flu shot if you haven’t already, stay home when you’re sick. But we don’t simply have to survive the winter months. We can thrive.”

By taking a few easy steps, you can feel your best even when the weather outside is terrible.

How to prevent dry winter skin.

Why does skin feel dryer in the winter months? The combination of cold air, dry indoor heat and low humidity levels is the perfect recipe for zapping the moisture from your skin. You can prevent dry skin by moisturizing your face, hands and body right after washing with soap and water, which strips your skin of its natural oils. You should also use exfoliants and cleansing scrubs less often. Harsh scrubs can break down your skin’s moisture barrier, leading to raw and irritated skin.

In addition to using moisturizer and avoiding exfoliants, you can use a humidifier to increase moisture levels in the air. A humidity level of 60 percent can help replenish the moisture in the top layer of your skin. Hot water can also strip away natural oils, so be sure to keep your bath and showers warm, not hot.

How to deal with seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression related to seasonal changes. SAD is typically associated with the lack of sunlight during the winter months, which can disrupt our internal clocks and the neurotransmitters in our brain. People who experience SAD may feel unmotivated, sluggish, sad or depressed.

Light therapy is often an effective way to reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy works by using a special lamp to mimic outdoor light, which can help regulate your brain chemicals and elevate your mood.

How to get a better night’s sleep.

As tempting as it may be to hibernate in bed all winter long, sticking to a regular sleep schedule will help keep both your body and mind feeling their best. To get a good night’s rest every night, be sure not to crank up the heat too high when you go to bed. A cool room, between 62- and 68-degrees Fahrenheit, is the ideal temperature for your best sleep. You should also try to avoid big, hearty meals right before bed. When your body is forced to digest while you sleep, it has a hard time transitioning into sleep mode. Try eating dinner a few hours before you hit the hay.

“And when the alarm goes off in the morning, open those curtains and get some sunlight, which will help you wake up feeling energized and ready to take on the day,” said Dr. Szekely.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers comprehensive primary care at locations throughout the region. For more information or to find a primary care provider near you, visit