Doctor gives advice on handling snow anxiety and wintertime blues

Mar 6, 2023, 6:00 PM
Kenny Rybak, 31, shovels snow around his car in Running Springs, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Beleaguered Californians got hit again Tuesday as a new winter storm moved into the already drenched and snow-plastered state, with blizzard warnings blanketing the Sierra Nevada and forecasters warning residents that any travel was dangerous. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SALT LAKE CITY — Another day, another snowstorm. For some, snow brings joy, but for others, it ushers in apprehension, uneasiness and anxiety.

Chionophobia is an intense fear of snow. People with this disorder have severe anxiety and panic attacks when they think about or see snow. Read more about chionophobia at the Cleveland Clinic website.

The doctor is in

Dr. Jason Hunziker from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute joins Dave & Dujanovic to explain how to deal with snow anxiety. He also brings some tips on how to get out of the rut of lingering winter blues.

Debbie said she thinks she has snow anxiety or chionophobia.

“I look out the window, and I realize I gotta drive in this stuff,” she said.

But Dave loves it.

“I just I love the snow. I love the way it looks. It’s beautiful. It’s a little bit of an inconvenience driving around in it, but I dig it,” he said.

Debbie said she was “pumped up” for snow in December and January, but by March, she is done with it.

Snow anxiety

To combat snow anxiety, be informed (find a trusted source) and be prepared, both will go a long way in reducing fear of snow, Hunziker said.

“Know what you’re facing so you can be prepared for the next day, making sure you have the stuff you need in your house,” Hunziker said. “If you’re a snowblower kind of person and you need some gas, make sure you have that. That helps relieve the anxiety about being prepared to do what you have to do the next day.”

Talk over your anxiety with friends, neighbors and family and be realistic about the weather, Hunziker recommended.

“We’re all kind of in the same boat with the snow, and we all get really anxious about how much we’re going to get and when it’s coming. But if we share that, it does ease that tension a little bit — and just being realistic. . . we have no control over this. Nobody does. We just kind of go with it and know what’s going to happen. As long as we’re prepared to face it, let’s just get out and do it.

Focus on what you can control

“Just focus on the things you can control,” he said. “You can control how you respond to the snowstorm; you can control if you’re going to leave your house or not that day, and what you’re going to eat.”

Snow fall and winter blues set in

Dave asked  if seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing.

“Seasonal depression, this is pretty new to me. I hadn’t heard of this concept. This isn’t just a figment — this isn’t something someone just made up in their mind like, you know, every time that winter hits, I get depressed. Is seasonal depression a real thing?”

“It is. No, it is a real thing. It is a type of depression that comes back to bite you almost every season. . . Unfortunately, it normally ends around February for most people, but with this prolonged winter, I think people are going to be feeling this a little bit longer,” Hunziker said.

He added that if you are struggling with SAD, if you are sleeping too much and struggle to get out of bed or your arms and legs are heavy, it might well be time to visit a doctor because there are meds and therapies that can help.

“If this happens every year, you can predict it. You start the medicine early so you never even get into this phase. But you can also engage in therapy for this, too. A lot of people find great success just getting more active with their therapist during this time,” Hunziker said.

Be active to shake off winter blues

Debbie said she was disappointed Sunday because she was looking forward to going on a run, but it was cold, snow and icy.

“I thought, Well, way to go, Mother Nature. Thank you so much for blowing another lovely weekend.”

Get moving, despite the weather, Hunziker advised.

“Getting moving is the hardest thing in the wintertime. Planning these events when we can get out — like yesterday afternoon. It got really sunny there for a while. That was the time to get outside and let that sun hit your face. Even though it was still cold, it felt different with that sun beaming beaming down on you and getting outside,” he said.

Related reading:

Avalanche reported in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Doctor gives advice on handling snow anxiety and wintertime blues