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Winter therapies

Peggy Williams
Peggy Williams

Peggy Williams lifts weights Dec. 26 at the Parkpoint Health Club in Santa Rosa. Williams works out at the health club seven days a week and finds the physical activity and social aspect of the gym helps to elevate her mood.

Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.

In the wintertime, you might arrive at work while it's still dark outside, and by the time you leave for home, it's already getting dark again.

It's all part of the seasonal doldrums, when the holidays are over and summer is still a long, long way away. How do you keep yourself going in the dead of winter?

We asked readers to share their tips for fending off winter woes, and got suggestions ranging from outdoor hikes and walks to playing cards with friends, and from comfort food to high-powered vitamins.

For Peggy Williams of Santa Rosa, bookkeeper for a restaurant group, a trip to the gym changes the tone of the whole day. She originally started exercising because of an injury.

“In 2000, I rolled my four-wheeler in Cazadero,” Williams said. “I hurt my left knee and right shoulder. Then I was given a membership at the Parkpoint Club as a Christmas gift. I started out doing water aerobics and worked my way up to lifting weights.”

What began as a form of physical therapy soon became a way of life. When Williams gets off work in the afternoon, she heads straight for the health club.

“When I walk in, I leave my baggage or problems or whatever on the outside,” she said. “I have a good time and smile. It feels good. I love being around positive people. It helps you find a light in winter.”

For Herlinda Heras of Rohnert Park, an agent for the New York Life Insurance Company, staying upbeat during the winter months is all about making and sharing good food.

“I just woke up to a batch of chicken soup with Tuscan kale, Meyer lemon, leeks and garlic, cooked overnight in the crockpot,” she said.

“It seems all my friends have been fighting colds,” Heras added. “Soup cures what ails you and it's always nice to see a smiling friend's face, showing up with a homemade lunch.”

Heras also contends that chicken coq au vin and braised short ribs effectively combat the blues.

Shiroko Sokitch, an M.D. and acupuncturist who lives in Novato and works in Santa Rosa, takes a more scientific approach to fighting off winter depression.

“Vitamin D and omega fatty acids, 5HTP (Hydroxytryptophan), (vitamin) B complex,” she recommended. But her most emphatic advice was: “Find something fun to do.”

Readers' recommendations included walks on the beach, yoga, meditation, neighborhood potlucks and even staying home to play board games.

“January always includes some spectacular and special winter hikes,” said Frederique Lavoipierre, Student Engagement Coordinator for the Sonoma State University Nature Preserves and Field Stations.

“I am going to see the bald eagles at Cache Creek,” she said. “How exciting! No doldrums there. For the less mobile, Armstrong Woods has a lovely trail through the redwoods.”

But for Kevin Russell of Sebastopol, who describes himself as a “psychotherapist by day, guitar player at night,” overcoming the doldrums can be as simple as changing a light bulb. It's a way to compensate for the wintry decrease in sunshine, which can literally make people sick.

“I suggest folks dealing with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) spend 10 minutes a day under full-spectrum lighting,” he said. “These specialized light bulbs are available locally at (Santa Rosa's) Community Market, as well as other places. And they really help.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or See his ARTS blog at

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