It’s hard to believe it but we’ve added 20 minutes of day light to our schedule since the shortest day of the year – that being December 21st, the Winter Solstice. It’s that day when Pocatello only receives 9 hours of sunlight! To give you an idea of how drastic our seasonal daylight hours are, in July we are blessed with over 15 hours of sunlight. ( While we are slowly increasing our daylight hours, the days still seem dark, and the cold weather likes to keep us indoors. We’re sort of in the home stretch for the winter season and for some people that means Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD – still persists.

You may be thinking why address it as SAD rather than seasonal depression? That’s because not only are our moods affected by winters but also summer. Just as the two extreme seasons remain opposite of each other so are their effects on our mood. In the summer, studies show that spikes in our Cortisol – often referred to as the stress hormone – are more prevalent in our bodies and make us angrier or have heightened anxiety. During the winter months Cortisol levels are often attenuated or reduced making many people feel depressed and have lower levels of arousal.

However; Cortisol levels for healthy persons are very well regulated with only a slight difference of these levels in comparison to summer and winter months. (Czeisler, Gooley) As per the norm, there isn’t a single thing that causes us to feel differences in our moods. It’s a combination of little choices that occur based on the traditional activities correlated with the present time. For example, during the summer months we get outside more and increase our activity levels. We also – and this may surprise some – eat more fruits and vegetables in the summer and drink more alcohol in the winter, the later, has been proven to be a depressant. In addition to dampening moods through the winter seasons, we tend to increase our appetites which leads to weight gain. The additional inches on our waistlines can cause some real unhappiness as well.

As science continues to increase our knowledge and experience of SAD there are a few recommendations  we offer you to help alleviate the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder for these winter months.

  1. Increase your light intake through artificial full spectrum light boxes. These boxes should be used in small doses – no longer than 20 minutes – once per day. While the FDA has not officially approved them as medical devices, there are many years of successful clinal use. (Horowitz)


  1. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables per meal! Only 1 in 10 American adults are eating the federal fruit and vegetable recommendation amount. If you struggle with the idea of constantly prepping vegetables for every meal, you can always prepare a whole bunch and freeze them for later. Or you can just buy them froze at the store. The vitamins and nutrients are not lost when produce is frozen.


  1. Recent studies into aromatherapy have showed improvement in depressive symptoms. While more research is needed, there seems to be no sign of negative affects caused by properly using essential oils, floral or balms to increase our moods. For a quick breakdown into aromatherapy visit this page offered by the mayoclinic.


  1. Lastly, but certainly not least; get moving! A study of subjects who routinely performed mild to moderate daily exercise during the winter months resulted in the alleviation of typical depressive symptoms.


Here in Idaho you can always count on being able to do the following fun activities to help get your energy levels up.

  • Sledding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Touch Football
  • Hiking

And if you can’t make it outdoors due to icy driveways and roads there is an entire reddit thread dedicated to using your own bodyweight or minimal exercise equipment for those hoping to increase their activity levels indoors during the winter months.

Danielle Hamill, a provider at Physicians Mental Health states “We can help those feeling down from the winter months with a combination of medication management and counseling. It’s important for people to recognize that these symptoms can be evidence of something more than SAD – but we are readily available to help counsel those needing to feel a boost in their mood during the winter months.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects people in their own way and with different levels of intensity. The same symptoms experienced during the winter months also mirror that of Chronic Depression or other emotional disorders that should not be taken lightly. It can be hard to know if emotional distress will quickly pass once the sun stays higher in the sky or continue on as winter ends.

We at Physicians Mental Health services encourage people to complete a few of the recommendations to alleviant the symptoms of SAD. If you start to include even minor changes to your day using some of these recommended items and don’t feel any different – we strongly invite you to schedule a visit with us. A cursory session will help us diagnose – and if needed -develop a treatment plan for individuals seeking to alleviate mental or emotional conditions for just a season; or year-round.


Currently, our Physicians Care Centers are seeing an average of 38 patients a day with flu related symptoms and in consideration of these digits – I felt that a proper post about the flu is needed. Let’s begin…

Influenza isn’t a one-size-fits-all virus. The real shape of the virus is a circle because it’s always going around!  Ok, I am done with the jokes. In all seriousness – the flu has been identified into four types of viruses: A, B, C, and D. Most of us become victims of type A and B during the winter seasons while Type C doesn’t generally cause epidemics or grace us with the usual flu-like symptoms we’ve come to know and love. Oh, and Type D primarily affects cattle – The Flu & Moo. ( Type A Influenza is the most common virus infecting humans and can potentially fall into 144 different subtypes depending on hemagglutinin and neuraminidase counts – these are different types of proteins and enzymes found in viruses. If you really want to dive deep into the codex of Flu types, I recommend checking out This website allows you to explore each type of strain combination discovered thus far. Type H1N1 and H3N2 are the most common strains that infect humans and type H1N1 continues to mutate causing the first influenza pandemic in 40 years when it was labeled as “the swine flu” in 2009. Type A, strain H1N1 influenza brings many of the same symptoms a seasonal flu strain causes including fever and sore throat, however, it can introduce nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in addition to its arsenal of yuckyness. (

Odds are, you’ve had the flu at one time in your life and the stomach flu at another. Sadly, the seasonal flu and the stomach flu aren’t even the same virus – they just share the same symptoms. Seasonal flu tends to come suddenly and will just make you reminisce of the times your body didn’t hurt by being alive. Symptoms can last from 2 to 10 days and if you’re able to be diagnosed quickly and prescribed antiviral medications the days of feeling like a human rust-bucket can dramatically decrease. ( The misleading stomach flu is actually gastroenteritis caused by norovirus, rotavirus, or a food-borne bacteria and tends to bring a rush of vile fluids to both our body’s attic and basement – sometimes at the same time. If you’re currently wondering which one you’ve got – take a quick look at our provided chart available for download! Symptoms and Sickness Chart

Speaking of seasonal flu, have you ever wondered why the flu seems to only be prevalent during the winter seasons? There’s been a debate on what’s the main spread factor of the flu during this time of year. Is the increased prevalence caused by us being inside more and sharing the same air with others? Is it because of the short days and lack of Vitamin D that compromises our immune systems? Is it because cold weather compromises our immune system? Or does the virus survive better in the harsh cold?

The answer my friends – is all of the above. However, recent studies have now proven that the flu does indeed transfer easier in colder and drier ecosystems. A peer-reviewed article studied the effects of climate and humidity and they were able to prove that the flu is dependent on both. The experiments proved that cold and dry conditions are the most favorable for the strain to spread. (Lowen, Mubareka, Steel, Palese) Also, the flu virus can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces and 12 hours on cloth surfaces during room temperatures. If it’s below freezing the virus can live up to 30 days! (Friedlander, Mark) Science is cool, but sometimes harsh. Combining these evidence-based facts with the compounding effects of humans staying closer in proximity in the winter months makes it so the influenza virus seems completely cyclical.

So, what can be done!? Here is a list of options –

1) Get your flu shot! Flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among adults on an average of 40%. ( There are so many misconceptions about the vaccine, I recommend looking at this page if you have doubts about it.


2) Boost your melatonin by eating fruits and vegetables like tart cherries, walnuts, pineapples, tomatoes, bananas and many others. (Howatson, PG, Tallent, Middleton, McHugh) Click on the article to see the science behind this diet! Melatonin encourages rejuvenating sleep which boosts our body’s immune systems.


3) Wash your hands often with soap and water! Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.


4) Drink some green tea mixed with lemon and honey. The steam from the tea will stimulate the hair follicles in your nose to move out germs while the lemon and honey will thin out mucus and provide natural antibacterial benefits to your body. (


5) Carry a pen everywhere you go! Not necessarily to write things down but to touch buttons we commonly are forced to do such as ATM’s or credit card readers. You can also purchase a pen that can be used to scroll on your phone rather than using your fingers!


6) If your co-workers are bringing in the sickness – invest in a mask! Although it’s not a cultural norm in our society, a 2008 study showed that those who used masks properly were 80% less likely to be diagnosed with the flu. (MacnIntyre, Dwyer, Seale, Fasher)


7) Do everything your mothers told you to do. Eat right, get plenty of sleep, and wash your hands.


And hey, one day thanks to our llama friends, we may live to see a time when we don’t require an annual flu shot. Researchers have created a nasal spray derived from several llama antibodies that target many strains of the flu at once ( Maybe that’s why they be tryin’ to spit on us all the time!

Pocatello Immediate Care Fax

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