Staying active is key to fighting winter depression

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Area counselors say getting out of the house can be key to maintaining your mental health this time of year.

"The weather's been horrible, and even just not wanting to get out of the house is a risk factor for depression," said Jamie McWade, a mental health counselor with Bettendorf's Liberty Counseling.

Wednesday, McWade said depression reaches its year-round peak this time of year, as people deal with fewer hours of sunlight and up-and-down temperatures. Risk factors include substance abuse, not spending time around others, being sedentary, and sleeping too much or too little.

Prevention, though, can be as simple as getting active.

"The first step would be diet and exercise. If you're not getting any kind of activity or exercise, then that's a big risk factor," said McWade.

In the Quad Cities, staying active doesn't even have to mean a trip outdoors. The Clubhouse in Bettendorf offers indoor golf simulators, and owners say the bitter winter has been good for business.

"We have 55 courses, a bunch of driving range options. So, some people come in to practice, some other people come in to play. It's just nice to get out of the house this time of year," said Chris Larson.

Outdoor sports, though, may not be as far away as you think. The Quad City River Bandits' opening day is less than two months away.

"We're 57 days from opening day. I know it's hard to believe with all the snow on the ground, but we're firing on all cylinders here," said General Manager Andrew Chesser.

Together, the reminders of spring may help keep the winter from taking a toll on your mental health.

To help fight wintertime depression, Liberty Counseling is also offering free, in-person depression screens on February 25, 2014, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. You can also take an online screen at home on their website at this link.