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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.

Haven’t felt like yourself in a while? Help is just a click or call away

Haven’t felt like yourself in a while? Help is just a click or call away

One in four American adults are affected by a mental illness each year, yet only about half of those people are treated for it. Significant barriers include shortage of mental health (also called behavioral health) professionals and access to care. Other obstacles include fear of embarrassment, affordability, lack of transportation, and apathy.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is working to mitigate the shortage of resources with the opening of a free-standing 27-bed psychiatric hospital in the fall of 2021. The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital will accept adults ages 18-64 by referral or walk-in.

The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health (ARBH) team of therapists and providers offer multiple resources for treating mild to severe mental health disorders in the High Country. Outpatient Behavioral Health is located inside Sloop Medical Office Plaza in Linville, and inpatient treatment is currently located within Cannon Memorial Hospital. However, navigating the steps to get help is sometimes intimidating and overwhelming for someone who is already struggling. It can also be frustrating and may seem hopeless for loved ones trying to help.

Behavioral Health Help


When and how to get help


Eva Trivett-Clark, 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 or going to the local Emergency Department (ED).”

In crisis situations, the ARBH team offers crisis stabilization and disposition for patients presenting at the Emergency Department. From that point, an evaluation will determine the next steps for treatment, which could include a admittance to a psychiatric hospital if needed. When the new psychiatric inpatient hospital opens, patients in crisis will be able to come directly to the hospital for evaluation.

Currently, there are 10 inpatient beds available (in a 40-mile radius) at Cannon Memorial Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. This unit treats adults with more acute symptoms. There, patients can begin recovering and rebuilding in a safe, controlled environment that is fully equipped to provide psychiatric evaluation, medication management, individualized treatment planning and group therapy.

Behavioral Health telehealth For less severe symptoms, getting help is as simple as calling ARBH at (828) 737-7888 or requesting an appointment online. 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.

Although, the wait time to meet an outpatient therapist for talk therapy could be up to four-six weeks, telehealth appointments are available. This behavioral health program is designed to meet the needs of adults, children and families experiencing a variety of problematic behaviors, thoughts and life patterns.

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, they should be taken to the Emergency Department or 911 should be called.

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.

Click here or or call (828) 737-7888 for more information about Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Services.

View and/or download the Depression Screening Questionnaire >

Behavioral Health Therapists

Behavioral Health Therapists

Shan Bassion, LCSW_CAP

Shan Bassion, LCSW/LCAS

In practice since 2001
Adolescent and Adult Therapy
Schools: Appalachian State University, BSW; Barry University, MSW
Clinical interests: Depression and other mood disorders; severe and persistent mental illness; substance abuse and dual diagnosis issues; bereavement; sexual Identity issues; health coaching; marriage & family counseling; anxiety & self-esteem-related issues.
Personal interests: Health & fitness, travel
Favorite quote: “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”—-Bill Clinton.


Katie Elder, BFA, MSW, LCSW

In practice since 2013
Adolescent and Adult Therapy
School: University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Appalachian State University
Clinical interests: adolescent and adult individual therapy
Personal interests: theatre, cooking, reading, family time, collecting donations for community needs
Favorite quote: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”~ T. Roosevelt

Elizabeth (Lisa) B. Shelton, MSW, LCSW

Schools: UNC-Greensboro
Clinical interests: Health Coaching, Workplace Issues, Grief and Major Loss, Depression, Anxiety, peer relationships, family conflict, aging, and self-esteem.
Personal interests: Running, spending time with my family, including Tucker my 4 year old Jack Russell Terrier.
Favorite quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Eve Trivette-Clark

Eva Trivett-Clark, MA, LPA, HSP-PA

In practice since 1999
Specialty: Psychological testing and evaluation and trauma-focused therapy for first responders
Schools: Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Clinical Interests: EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), neurobiology, nutrition and exercise science
Personal Interests: hiking, camping, reading, playing baritone in a brass band, clogging
Favorite Quote: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway