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Winter fatigue impacting Coloradans more this season than previous years

Winter fatigue is impacting Coloradans more this season than previous years
Winter fatigue is impacting Coloradans more this season than previous years 02:45

If you're starting to feel like you haven't seen the sun enough or as much as usual, that's likely because it hasn't been around ... the number of cloudy days for Denver and surrounding areas have been substantial. 

Health experts say now might be the time to take a mental health break.

According to Dr. Patricia Westmoreland, the Medical Director of the women's unit at the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, the unusual streak of grey plays a key role in seasonal affective disorder.

While this disorder isn't normally a reason patients are admitted, she says it can still be an underlying issue.

"We're seeing a lot of people admitted, but not for seasonal affective disorder ... but that doesn't mean it isn't worse this year. I think it absolutely is I think not only do we have more cloudy days, I think there's been very depressing news lately; the economy politics, mass shootings climate change, and as one study that I saw from Indiana said, we haven't even really recovered from the pandemic yet," Westmoreland said.

According to data from the National Weather Service, in November, the Denver area saw a total of 24 partly cloudy days, one day with full cloud cover and just five clear days. 

In December, there were a total of 23 partly cloudy days, two days with full could cover and six clear days. 

So far in January, there have been 17 partly cloudy days, five days with full cloud cover and only one day clear.

Tuesday, while just outside the data window, would likely have constituted as a partly cloudy day. While it was still cold and with snow and mud on the ground, the sun was a nice surprise for many.

"It feels so nice to be outside!" Mattie Carlson exclaimed.

Carlson was one of many at Lakewood's Forsberg Dog Park. She says she's been missing the sun, and if not for her dog, Toast, it would be hard to motivate.

"Animals are a huge motivator for me personally," Carlson said. "They depend on you, you have got to do it even if you don't want to you've got to do it."

It was the same for Dr. Kyle Knuppel, a Denver-based family physician also out at Forsberg with Honey Paw.

"Today the sun is out and we didn't think it would be," Knuppel said. 

Knuppel says he doesn't need data as he's noticed the absence of that intense Colorado sun.

"I've been here for a number of years and I'd say this is the cloudiest winter we've had," he said. "There's an effect, I think it keeps people inside and not doing things that they normally do, and I think it has an effect on your emotional state." 

It's why Knuppel and Carlson are grateful for their four-legged friends. Westmoreland says spending time with loved ones (pets included) is crucial but not enough of us create the time.

"To sort of get off this busy merry-go-round. We're all asked to do more than we can do all of the time and I think it's important for us to find a way to say 'no', when it's appropriate and maybe step back a little, and look at some of the changes that we have had to face in the last few years," she said.

While Knuppel wasn't acting in an official physician capacity when CBS News Colorado spoke to him on camera, he gave us an unofficial doctor's note:

"If it's a sunny day and you can take off work, call out, it's good for you," he said. 

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