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3 ways to warm up the Winter Blues

3 ways to warm up the Winter Blues

Endless grey skies, drizzle to snow mixtures, and wind so gusty you see it coming before it hits you paints a not-so-colorful stretch of winter weather typically found in the High Country. Days of dark, dreary weather have been known to make some folks come down with the winter blues or its more extreme version, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The winter blues are fairly common in our area with long winter months and very grey days. The challenge is diagnosing whether a client has a mild case of winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or another form of depression.

Symptoms for the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) appear to be similar on the onset and may include:

  • Sleep issues (either too much or not enough)
  • Fatigued to the point where it is difficult to carry out daily routines
  • Overeating and/or strong cravings for “comfort foods,” especially carbohydrates
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Social withdrawal

Treatment techniques will determine whether or not the winter blues really are SAD or another form of depression. Experts recommend a three-step process to clients describing some form of the winter blues.

Image: couple biking

Step one: Exercise

Yes, it’s a verb buzzed about all the time, but all this talk must lead to positive results because doctors, counselors, and other healthcare professionals are always recommending it. And, our area offers the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center, the Greenway, several parks, and sidewalks around Boone to help you enjoy slivers of daylight during the winter months. A long walk outside helps refresh your senses, and if it is too yucky to go out, a creative solution may be to brighten up your home and do some jumping jacks, run-in-place, or stretches. Any form of exercise will help you warm up the winter blues.

Image: woman sleeping

Step two: Strive to sleep and rest well

If you exercise, you’re more likely to tire yourself out and sleep better. Other considerations include reducing caffeine intake, make an effort to turn off your thoughts (counting sheep is always a popular game), or just simply lying there and resting. If you continue to have trouble sleeping, seek your doctor’s advice and ask if a sleep study is right for you. If you are sleeping too much, make an effort to avoid snoozing past eight hours.


Step three: Engage in an activity that gives you pleasure

This suggestion seems simple enough, but people often struggle with time and money to make it happen. However, if you make it a priority, you’re likely to come up with an affordable solution that fits your budget. Popular winter activities may include reading, completing craft projects, sledding, ice skating, or other ideas discovered by talking with friends.

Be self-aware

“Being aware of your symptoms is so important to getting past the winter blues. We’re most vulnerable when we’re unaware of what’s going on with us. Sometimes sitting down and talking with a trusted friend, family member, or professional, qualified healthcare worker can be very successful in dealing with the winter months,” continues Shelton.

If the above three steps do not seem to help your mood, seek the advice of your doctor or a licensed behavioral healthcare worker. Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Services offers crisis care, therapy, and psychiatric services if you should need professional help.



Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may include light therapy, which involves exposure to daylight or a specially-made fluorescent bright light for 30 minutes to two hours a day. SAD can often be confused with other forms of depression, and patients with SAD aren’t usually diagnosed with it until their symptoms can be observed over a period of one or more fall/winter seasons.

The most important consideration is to take the time to make your mental health a priority. People affected by the winter blues or other more serious forms of depression must strive to adjust their routines in order to have success, and the rewards of a happy, healthy mind are well worth the effort.


Wherever you are, we’ll meet you there.

By using our Telehealth option, you may visit with your provider from the comfort and convenience of your home. No referral needed.

  • Contact Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health at (828) 737-7888 or visit the website
  • Contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at (828) 268-9049. 



For High Country employers: 

Jenni Womble and staff of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are available to provide short-term professional help and guidance to all employees and their family members of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System as a part of the system’s benefits program. The EAP is highly confidential and accepts voluntary self-referrals. Additionally, the EAP contracts to provide services for the Town of Boone, Town of Beech Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, Boone Drug, several doctors’ offices, and other organizations throughout the High Country. For more information about EAP, call (828) 268-9049.

5 Non-Diet New Year’s Resolutions

5 Non-Diet New Year’s Resolutions

“New Year, New Me” – At the start of every year, millions of people rush to make New Year’s resolutions that are often promises to lose weight, exercise more, shrink, tone, and have it all by Christmas 2022.

Many will fall prey to fad diets and bogus weight-loss products – juice cleanses, 30-day challenges, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, keto diet, etc. Yet, 95% of all diets fail and most dieters will gain back the weight they lost. (1) Dieting, and intentional weight loss, can contribute to food and body fixation, disordered eating, weight cycling, yo-yo dieting, and rarely does it produce a leaner, healthier, happier you. (2)

A challenge to you in 2022: Ditch the diet in the pursuit of thinness. Instead of the primary focus being weight loss, take an approach that focuses on respecting, honoring, and caring for your body, mind, and spirit.

The following resolutions are not centered around a diet, but respectful care and holistic well-being:

Image: couple biking

1) Discover Joyful Movement

Movement should be rooted in joy – never punishment. Joyful movement is a way of approaching exercise that emphasizes pleasure, joy, and choice. It does not focus on burning calories or working off the cookie you ate at dinner last night. Joyful movement can include any type of movement, from gardening, dancing, walking the dog, taking the stairs, cleaning, yoga, to going on a run with a friend. Discover activities that you enjoy or would like to try in 2022.

Image: Family eating together

2) Practice Gentle Nutrition

Make food choices that are satisfying to you while also honoring your health. Gentle nutrition is flexible and balanced, rather than restrictive and extreme. It can be as simple as grabbing whole wheat bread vs white bread for added fiber and nutrients or simply adding veggies to your restaurant burrito. ALL foods provide us with nourishment, comfort, enjoyment, and connection.

Image: woman sleeping

3) Catch Some Zzz’s

Sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. A good night’s sleep can boost your immune system, improve memory, reduce stress, increase productivity, and can lower your risk of developing chronic diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. (3)

As you enter the new year, strive to get at least seven hours of sleep each night:

  • establish a bedtime routine
  • create a comfortable bedtime environment
  • avoid caffeine and alcohol before heading to bed
  • remove all electronic devices from the bedroom (3)
Photo: heart hands couple

4) Practice Body Neutrality

In today’s society, it is easy to feel ashamed about your body or body size. It is important to acknowledge that dieting or intentionally altering your body size will not help you to love your body. This new year, begin to explore your relationship with your body. Your body is deserving of respect, dignity, and celebration – no matter it’s size, shape, or color. Body neutrality focuses on appreciating your body for all that it does each day. Start with identifying qualities that you appreciate about yourself, that have nothing to do with weight or shape. On bad body image days, remind yourself that it is okay to not love your body right now, but you can always work to respect it.

Image: Woman Meditating

5) Create a Self-Care Routine

Self-care is not only facials and manicures. Self-care is often just getting the basics – Are you getting enough sleep? Are you skipping meals? Self-care can be any restorative activity that leaves you feeling enriched and nurtured. (4) Self-care can look different for everyone, it can be a walk around the neighborhood, meditating, a 20-minute nap, talking with a therapist, doing your grocery shopping online, or taking the scenic drive to work. In 2022, explore what rest looks like for you.

Be patient, be gentle, and be kind to yourself in 2022. Wishing you health and happiness in the New Year!

Photo: Madi Zaidel, Community Outreach SpecialistAuthor: Madi Zaidel, CHES®
Madi is a Certified Health Education Specialist and is currently the Community Health Outreach Specialist for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Madi holds a degree in Public Health and is working on her master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition. Madi is passionate about health promotion, health education, and holistic well-being, and is an advocate for health at every size (HAES).


1. Mann, T., et al. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220-233. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220.
2. Memon, A., et al. (2020). Have our attempts to curb obesity done more harm than good? Cureus, 12(9), e10275.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Sleep and chronic disease.
4. World Health Organization. (2021). Self-care interventions for health.

Avery County Healthcare Leader Retiring After More Than Three Decades of Service

Avery County Healthcare Leader Retiring After More Than Three Decades of Service

After working in healthcare in Avery County for more than 34 years, Carmen Lacey, President of Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (CMH), is retiring.

Carmen Lacey

Carmen Lacey

Lacey began her career in 1987 as part of the first Pharmacy Technician Certification program at Sloop Memorial Hospital in Crossnore. While working in the Pharmacy Department she was inspired to pursue a career in nursing. “I saw what nursing really meant at Sloop through several role models — and determined that was what I wanted to do,” Lacey says.

Within six months, she was a charge nurse, and eventually became the Assistant Director of Nursing. She worked there until Sloop and CMH came together in the new hospital in Linville in 1999. Five years later, CMH became part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Through all of this transition, Lacey rose in the ranks and managed several departments including the Medical Surgical Unit, The New Life Center, Emergency Department, and the Operating Room. She also served as Director of Nursing before being promoted to President of CMH in 2012.
“I have worked with so many wonderful people over the years,” Lacey says. “I have been truly humbled by the love, dedication and compassion that our staff has shown our community and patients. My cup has been filled with the support the staff has given me throughout all of my transitions and the many changes that healthcare has undergone. I will miss the morning briefings with Stephanie Greer and Ashley Campbell. I will miss the teamwork that has been evident when a challenge is presented. Quite simply – I will miss the people.”

And the people will miss her.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System President and CEO Chuck Mantooth, who has worked with Lacey for nearly 20 years commented, “Carmen epitomizes the phrase, “servant leader.” Her genuine care and compassion for patients is unmatched. Her dedication to the community is unwavering. It has been a true pleasure to work with her.”

Lacey says in her retirement, she plans to travel and spend more time with family. Her last day in a full-time role will be January 7, 2022. In Lacey’s departure, Stephanie Greer will assume the title of Avery Market President for both Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital and Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital.


2021 Longest Night Worship | AppFaithHealth

2021 Longest Night Worship | AppFaithHealth

Longest Night Bird Image The holiday season can be a painful time for some. Whether it’s the first Christmas without a loved one, the anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, or the pain of isolation, for many reasons the holiday season may not be one filled with joy and happiness.

Join our community on the longest night of the year as High Country clergy lead us in a contemplative, ecumenical worship service that acknowledges our grief and celebrates the light that shines in the darkness.

Tuesday, December 21, 6:30 pm
Watauga Medical Center Cafeteria

A livestream of the event will be available on Facebook at Masking and social distancing will be observed. Sponsored by AppFaithHealth.

7th Annual Lighting of the Tree Virtual Event

7th Annual Lighting of the Tree Virtual Event

Hand-Painted Ornament by Karin Neuvirth

Lighting of the Tree ornament, hand-painted by artist Karin Neuvirth

December 16, 2021
6:00 p.m.
Livestream on Facebook

Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center warmly invites all High Country residents to help decorate a festive tree by purchasing ornaments in honor and/or memory of loved ones who have faced cancer, no matter where they were treated. People of all faiths are welcome.


To attend the Lighting of the Tree

Watch the live event on Facebook on Thursday, December 16th at 6:00 pm or anytime afterwards at your convenience. Decorated trees will be on display in the Medical Oncology Lobby and Radiation Oncology Lobby until January 7, 2022. There will be no in-person event this year.


To order an ornament in honor/memory of a loved one

Elegant black resin ornaments with a commemorative ribbon have been chosen for this occasion. Each honoree’s name will be hand painted on an ornament. Ornament orders received by December 10th will be placed on the tree prior to the ceremony. Orders placed after December 10th will be added as they are received.

If you would like to keep your commemorative ornament, visit the Cancer Center’s Medical Oncology Department (upper level) to pick it up during the week of January 10th-14th from 8 am until 5 pm.

For more information, call (828) 262-9165 or email Order online below or download an order form ▶︎



New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital opening in Linville

New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital opening in Linville

Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health ARBH

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is proud to announce that its new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital (ARBH) will officially open its doors on November 15, 2021.

“The most important component of this new hospital is providing services in a manner that promotes dignity to the patients and families we’re here to serve. Through our inpatient and outpatient services, our goal is to meet people where they are and for what they need at any given time,” said Stephanie Greer, President of Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health.

ARBH will follow a tiered opening schedule to ensure that patient needs are met every step of the way.

  • November 15, the new hospital will open with 10 beds, the same number currently housed at Cannon Memorial Hospital
  • November 29, bed capacity will expand to 15
  • December 13, a total of 20 beds will be available
  • December 27, ARBH will expand to 27-bed capacity
  • Patients can begin self-presentation (walk-in) on December 27th. At this time, law enforcement agencies will be able to bring involuntarily committed individuals directly to ARBH for evaluation as well


Meeting the needs of the High Country and beyond


Since 2008, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon) has provided a safe and secure space for mental health patients who perhaps would have nowhere to go, or would have to travel a long distance to find help. The new hospital, solely dedicated to behavioral health, will extend that to even more patients in the years to come.

Before ARBH was established, the Cannon 10-bed inpatient unit was the only inpatient behavioral health facility within a 40-mile radius, receiving more than 5,000 psychiatric referrals from across the state each year. Cannon was only able to admit about 11% of those referrals – an average of 560 patients per year.

The new 27-bed facility will be able to serve 1,500 patients each year – three times what Cannon has been able to accommodate in the past.

“By expanding the number of behavioral health beds available, more High Country residents will be able to receive treatment close to home in a timely manner,” said Greer.


Walk-in assessment beginning December 27th will eliminate the need for Emergency Department visits


ARBH Activity Space

Open floor-plan Activity Space with natural light.

Across the state of North Carolina, patients needing long-term psychiatric hospital beds typically wait about 92 hours – just under four days – in the Emergency Department (ED). Locally, the average wait time to find appropriate treatment options for behavioral health patients is 16-18 hours. Those ED beds cannot be used for other medical emergencies while patients are waiting for transfer.

After ARBH reaches full operational capacity on December 27, adults ages 18-64 with any issue will be able walk into the facility and behavioral health professionals will assess them to determine if they need inpatient or outpatient care. There is no need for a referral or to visit an ED first.

If a person does not need psychiatric hospitalization or involuntary commitment, crisis services can still be helpful with an action plan and a referral to outpatient services.


What does a top-tier behavioral health treatment experience look like?


ARBH Dining Room

Dining room with buffet-style service

ARBH provides a top-tier treatment experience for patients. The healing environment includes open areas with natural light and mountain views. Caregivers partner with patients to meet them where they are and provide a combination of coping skills and innovative approaches to therapy.

“I’m proud to work with a team that recognizes you cannot neglect mental health as part of total health. Our team approach is a resource to help clients on their journey to wellness, realizing that the client is an integral part of the plan and decision-making process.” Ella Markland, FNP/PMHNP, Avery County native and Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner.

To fulfil the mission to provide care while maintaining the patient’s dignity and autonomy, the hospital is comprised of three separate spaces: Admissions, Treatment Mall and Residence Hall. All patients go through an admissions process which includes nursing care, medical history and physical assessments. At the time of admission every patient will get an individual meal, medication and therapy treatment schedule.

The Treatment Mall is where patients receive their treatment services. The hospital has three primary group rooms with a different focus for each treatment session based on the customized plan the patient receives upon admission. During the treatment sessions, notes are taken and printed at the end of each session for outpatients to add to their treatment manual, equipping them for success after discharge.

Due to an active treatment plan, patients sleep and eat in the Residence Hall area but are rarely in their rooms.

ARBH Visitation

Visitation Room with visibility to the activity areas

Family support systems are cornerstones of behavioral health during the treatment and recovery process. Family members are invited and encouraged to attend treatment team meetings. These meetings provide information on the patient’s plan of care and treatment goals. Discharge and aftercare needs will also be discussed during the treatment team meetings.

A patient’s relationship with ARBH may not end at discharge. Patients may be referred to outpatient services to continue treatment.

“Unlike every other diagnosis, there seems to be a stigma or fear to talk about behavioral health,” said Greer. “But the truth is that one-in-four adults will suffer every year from a diagnosable mental illness. Our goal is to meet these people where they are and to provide them with the care they so desperately need.”


What to do if you or a loved one needs help


Eva Trivett-Clark, Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health (ARBH) Program Manager, shares guidance for those concerned they or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition. “A general rule of thumb [for symptoms] is any noticeable increase or decrease in behaviors, thoughts or feelings,” Trivett-Clark said. “An increase in behavior might include talking rapidly, pacing or sleeping too much. A decrease in typical behavior may include such things as withdrawal from family and friends, sleeping too little or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Any suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors should be evaluated immediately by calling 911, walking in to ARBH, or going to the local Emergency Department (ED).”

For less severe symptoms, getting help is as simple as calling Outpatient Behavioral Health at (828) 737-7888 or requesting an appointment online at No referral is needed. Completing the depression screening tool, available on the website, is often a good place to start in determining whether one needs help.

While reaching out for help may seem like a big step for some, perhaps the hardest task is convincing a reluctant loved one (particularly one who is an adult) that they need professional help. Sometimes listening, validating and asking questions are sufficient, but if they have harmed themselves or someone else, or they are likely to do so, 911 should be called, or they should be taken to ARBH for walk-in assessment.

The truth is everyone struggles sometimes. Whether mental health illnesses come from genetics, personality, life events or brain chemistry, it’s important to know that it’s ok to not be ok. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, may worsen over time and cause serious problems. Professionals at ARBH are ready to help.

Although the new Behavioral Health Hospital is a part of ARHS, it is separate from Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon), which will no longer house an inpatient behavioral health unit. Cannon will continue to operate as a fully accredited Critical Access Hospital, including an inpatient acute care unit, full-service emergency department, imaging department, laboratory, outpatient behavioral health, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapies provided by The Rehabilitation Center.

Call (828) 737-7071 for more information about the Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health hospital or visit