Lowering temperatures, gray skies, and a loss of sunlight are signaling the change of the seasons as the winter months quickly approach in Utah. The “winter blues,” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it’s officially called in the DSM-IV (the manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association), is a common disorder that affects many men and women as the seasons change. Unfortunately, it’s not always recognized for what it is.
It can be easy to dismiss symptoms of SAD as just being “moody” or having a bad week. Certainly, everyone has those moments. The problem occurs when you can’t seem to shake those feelings. If you’re a student, there’s the constant stress and pressure of looming tests and projects. If school isn’t part of your life, there’s work, bills, kids, appointments, etc. There is always something else, and it can be exhausting and overwhelming. Regular everyday struggles coupled with SAD can trigger a downward spiral that feels impossible to overcome. Feelings of exhaustion, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression are serious problems no person should have to struggle through alone.
In life, there’s always going to be a job that needs to be finished, a deadline to be met, or a relationship to nurture, and these are all wonderful things that keep us enriched. At the same time, when the pressure becomes a bit too heavy, there’s no shame in slowing down and taking time to stop and smell the pine trees.
In Utah, we’re lucky to have an amazing contrast of outdoor spaces. I’ve found that one of the best ways to practice self-care and get back to myself is in the solitude of nature. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a handful of places to go where I can relax and unplug; taking these mini getaways has been a life-saver when I need a rejuvenating mental health day.
Diamond Fork Hot Springs
There’s nothing better than a good, long, mineral filled soak after a winter hike. Fifth Water Hot Springs in Diamond Fork Canyon can be reached after a 2.5 mile hike. The best time to go is in the fall before any heavy snow falls force the road to close. The blue and green colors of the swirling pools are vibrant and absolutely mesmerizing.
Stansbury is one of the largest of the Great Salt Lake’s 15 islands. There are primitive camping spots all throughout Stansbury Island, and it’s secluded. Stansbury is located in Tooele, Utah, and you can witness the most amazing sunsets and sunrises. The colors reflecting off of the still salty water make for a fantastic sight. I love taking one-night car camping trips to Stansbury after a long day of work.
I love gazing out over the Salt Lake Valley from the top of the Neff’s Canyon Loop trail, a moderate 1.2 mile trek. Neff’s is one of my favorite canyons to visit at the beginning of fall when the leaves start to change. It’s perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll.
A good workout always helps me take my mind off of things. Unfortunately, I’m also one of those people who hates the gym and organized workout sessions. The most exercise I do comes from hiking and snowshoeing. In the winter, Big Cottonwood Canyon is perfect for skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers alike. The area around Silver Lake has great trails for this latter group.
Going for a ride on the Heber Valley Railroad is a cute and quaint way to spend an evening; fares range from $8 to $30 a person depending on the route. It’s wonderful to view Wasatch county through the windows of a slow moving train as you sip a hot beverage on a chilly day.
Crystal Hot Springs
Did you know that little old Honeyville, Utah, has hot springs with the highest mineral content in the world? These developed springs are just an hour north of Salt Lake City,
and it is absolutely worth the drive. Soaking is $7 and camping starts at $20. There’s a small hotel nearby that has an Airbnb style self check-in option. The Olympic sized lap pool at Crystal is one of my favorite ways to enjoy this resort.
While visiting these places is certainly a wonderful way to unwind and combat the feelings of depression the season’s changes bring on, I also want to make a point to mention that sometimes extra help is needed to make it through the winter months. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reaching out to a close friend, a counselor, or a psychiatrist is a good idea. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. We all need a little help sometimes, and at the end of the day, taking care of your personal happiness and health should be a priority.