Beating the Blue Monday blues

by Doug Rapp

After a white Christmas, there may be a Blue Monday.

Blue Monday is the name given to what some  consider the most depressing day of the year—usually the third Monday  in January.

The idea originated with a Welsh academic as a marketing plan for a travel company, according to the  British newspaper Tele- graph. A formula involving debt, time past since  Christmas, winter weather and failed New Year’s resolutions add up to the infamous day in January. 

A Northwestern Medicine psychologist believes Blue Monday is a myth.

“There are so many other factors that contribute to depression,” said Dr. Stewart Shankman, chief of  psychology in the department of psychiatry and  behavioral sciences. “I don’t think there’s a certain day of the year that’s the most depressing day.”

Shankman allowed that  even without Blue Mon- day, January may be the  most depressing month of the year.

“What’s interesting is seasonal affective disorder (SAD, a seasonal type of depression), the onset of that actually tends to be in the beginning of winter,  more like October or November,” he said. “As the weather starts to get worse, that’s when you see the onset of SAD. It might hit its peak in January.”

Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist who founded the multi-location counseling practice Urban Balance, agreed.

“More of the population is impacted by SAD in Chicago, due to the cold and gray weather during the winter months,” she said. “Poor weather can worsen any underlying mental health issue, such as anxiety and depression, and decrease motivation.”

Chicago’s brutal winters limit social and physical activity while possibly raising fattening food intake, according to Heloisa G. R. Roach, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance’s South Michigan  Avenue location.

“In January, we might also experience  stressors of post-holiday financial concerns and seasonal unemployment (which)  intensify these feelings,” Roach said.

Several mental health professionals said  even if Blue Monday isn’t an actual phenomenon, they do see more patients in the  first month of the year.

“January does tend to be a busy time for therapists,” said Alicia Hoffman, a licensed  clinical professional counselor with a private practice in New Eastside. 

“A lot of people put off starting therapy during the holidays and understandably wait until after. Some people are coming to fulfill a New Years resolution, and some people come because they had to spend a  lot of time with family which can be triggering and high stress.” 

There are several ways to fight winter de- pression according to healthcare providers.  Light exposure is essential, through limited sunlight or a sun lamp. A healthy diet with plenty of Vitamin D , while avoiding  excessive alcohol use, can help. Maintaining physical activity, whether indoors or  outdoors, is important, along with keeping social contact with friends and family and avoiding too much “hibernation” and screen time. 

Marter added that cultivating a positive, grateful attitude is also beneficial,  and, if possible, arrange a trip somewhere warm between January and April. She said research indicates the anticipation of a vacation could be more helpful than the trip itself. 

If none of these lift your spirits, professionals said it may be time to seek help.  Roach said if you experience a significant  loss of energy in the winter, it’s worth consulting a mental health professional to see  if you’re experiencing a seasonal episode of depression.

Shankman said anyone can have sad  moods, but if it impairs your work or family life, seek treatment.  

Realistic resolutions: Keep ‘new year, new you’ working

Gym managers say setting smaller goals along the way helps

by Mat Cohen

You’re not alone. According to  Strava, a social network for athletes, most people don’t keep their  New Year’s resolutions past Jan. 12. That’s when, just nearly two weeks after the start of the year, lack of motivation creeps out like a monster from under the bed. 

Roughly 55 percent of resolutions are health-related, according to The Personality and Social  Psychology Bulletin, so how can we avoid biting off more than we  can chew in early January?

Head trainer Kelsey Slotter from Planet Fitness at 240 E. Illinois St. has some ideas. 

Slotter says finding other people with like-minded goals can  keep people motivated.

“We offer free fitness training that is included with all our  memberships,” she said. “Utilize group training classes to provide the encouragement, energy and motivation you need to reach your goals during the holidays.”

Lakeshore Sport & Fitness assistant general manager Luis  Davila says having a solid foundation to grow upon and utilizing  a fitness assessment the gym includes for new members, is important for hitting goals.

“It’s important for people to  understand resources when setting fitness goals,” said Davila  who explained that setting smaller goals can help along the way. 

“One thing might not be the answer for the full year and you might  need to change it up,” he said. “I think that’s critical to understand when people are setting their goal.”

Slotter believes enjoying small victories on the path to reaching a  bigger goal is as important as celebrating the final accomplishment.  Planet Fitness has a pizza party planned for January to keep the pressures of a resolution at bay.

“Ten minutes on the treadmill can lift your mood and help you get through the day,” Slotter said. “Schedules this time of year may  not allow for a longer workout, which is okay, but just hit the gym when you can.”

For those with kids, Davila, a  father, says the family member- ship at LSF which includes free  childcare and a family play space is great for him.

“It’s hard for me to even come in and work out in the mornings,” he said. “Having that option during group classes, during your  regular routine, that is an absolutely huge help as far as breaking  a barrier to entry and a commitment to year-long fitness goals.” 

Both locations offer new year promotions on membership. For more information visit lakeshoresf.com and planetfitness.com  

Gluten free eats offered in the neighborhood

by Angela Gagnon

Maintaining a gluten free lifestyle is challenging,  and especially import- ant for those with celiac  disease, an autoimmune condition where ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestine. 

Two community members living with celiac  disease shared tips on how to eat gluten free in the neighborhood for those looking to revamp their diets in 2020.

“I ask a lot of questions,” said Abigail Manville, who works in the New Eastside and was diagnosed celiac as a teenager. “I rely on the waitstaff and kitchen staff when dining out. I’ll call ahead and ask if they can accommodate me, and I avoid busy meal times so the chef can come out and talk to me.”

New Eastside resident Alexis Jones is also living with celiac disease. “

There is a lot of good (gluten-free) food out there. You just have to find it,” Jones said. “But being able to eat at restaurants and be part of the social scene is important, so I’ll talk to the chef and see if they can customize the menu or create something that works for me.” 

“So much of our socialization is built around  food,” Manville said, “so going gluten free can have a big impact on that.”

Jones said it’s hard to  share meals when eating out unless everyone agrees to go gluten free. Chicago’s downtown area has some options for those who can’t tolerate gluten. Whether avoiding gluten is a preference or an allergy, it’s possible to navigate the vast culinary landscape in downtown Chicago to meet your dietary needs.

“Brown Bag Seafood, 340 E. Randolph St., has food that is simple in terms of ingredients,”  Manville said. They also la- bel their gluten free menu  options on their website.

Jones said Brown Bag has a good gluten free clam chowder, which is hard to find.

 Eggy’s Diner, 333 E. Benton Place, offers gluten  free waffles and pancakes. “I can go there for  breakfast or dinner food,” Jones said.

Wildberry Cafe, 130 E. Randolph St., has a variety of gluten-free breakfast and lunch items, labeled “GF” to make it easier to order.

Jones and Manville also recommend Do-Rite Donuts, 50 W. Randolph St., for a sweet treat because they offer several gluten free varieties, prepared  using separate equipment from the regular  donuts. This is important for reducing cross  contamination.

Brightwok Kitchen in the Loop, 21 E. Adams St., “is an awesome dedicated gluten free build your own stir fry place,” Manville said. “And if I want a fancier meal when my family is in town, we will go to The Berghoff.” The German restaurant, 17 W. Adams St., has extreme handling procedures to make the gluten free dishes celiac-friendly.

Mariano’s grocery store, 333 E. Benton Place, has hundreds of gluten free products, which can make shopping for groceries a little easier.

“I’ve learned to make everything from scratch,” Jones said, “so shopping for gluten free ingredients is important. “Living in the city makes life easier for me. If I can eat at 10% of the places, that’s still a lot of options.”  

Local kids scale walls, shoot hoops as cold weather sets in

by Angela Gagnon

There are plenty of nearby options to help kids stay active as winter approaches.

Lakeshore Sports and Fitness (LSF), 211 N. Stetson Ave., is offering new children’s programming for members and nonmembers. Youth basketball classes, including group and private lessons, are available for kids aged 4 and up. Kids nine months and up can learn to swim, and older kids can hone their skills in the water with swimming lessons in the pool. LSF also has a seven-story indoor climbing wall with climbing lessons for kids aged 6 and up. 

“We want to get everyone excited about working out and being healthy,” said LSF General Manager Jarrett Brown. “We also want to build a sense of community for kids and families in the neighborhood and bring healthy habits home.” 

Besides organized classes, LSF also has a new kids playroom available to all members and their little ones during club hours. According to Brown, the play area provides a safe space for kids to run around and enjoy open play with others. Parents and caregivers are required to stay and supervise their children but it’s a good opportunity to socialize.

For more information on programming and offerings at LSF, contact Jarrett Brown at JarrettB@lakeshoresf.com or call (312) 856-1111. Information is also available at lakeshoresf.com/illinois-center/

To keep kids’ climbing skills sharp during the winter months, there are two indoor climbing wall facilities in Chicago that offer youth programs. 

First Ascent, 108 N. State St., is on the fourth floor of Block 37 and offers age-based progressive programs for kids of all abilities. Their teachings provide a structured approach to help kids become skilled and confident climbers. firstascentclimbing.com/block-37/ 

Brooklyn Boulders, 100 S. Morgan St. in the West Loop, offers kids climbing classes, private youth coaching, climbing teams and Adventure Days on select school holidays. They seek to instill a strong sense of self-confidence, teach problem-solving skills and improve concentration, movement and spatial awareness. brooklynboulders.com/chicago/ 

For those who don’t mind a little chill in the air, Maggie Daley Park’s ice skating ribbon will open mid-November. Kids can have fun exercising while skating on the unique and festive winding ice ribbon. Admission is free, and skate rental is available for a fee in the field house. 

“Parents can model healthy behavior at home,” Brown said. “Encourage kids to be active. Walk through the pedways together, dance, move around, do any type of sporting activity.” 

Or bundle up and head to Lakeshore East Park to run around in the field or enjoy the new playground equipment.

Chicago care services making house calls

By Elisa Shoenberger

Throughout Chicago there are doctors and other medical professionals who will go to residences. Instead of traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital, people can reach out to different services for non-emergency medical care in their home. 

Decades ago, it was common practice for doctors to travel to people’s homes with their recognizable black bag. Today, though the practice is not as common, doctors still bring medicines and IVs to treat patients in their own homes with many of these services even having specialists on staff, such as wound care specialists or technicians who bring along portable X-ray machines.

Locally, Chicago Express Doctors, founded by a few emergency room doctors, wanted to address the problem of crowded waiting rooms. One of the staff doctors, identified only as Dr. Allen, said the doctors thought, “Why don’t we do something more convenient?” and Chicago Express Doctors was born. Patients can call the service and have a doctor dispatched within an hour.

Another service, MD at Home, which has 9,000 unique patients each year, works largely with patients in their homes, typically with patients that have mobility or cognitive issues. MD at Home provides primary care services as well as helping coordinate other services as needed. Dovi Weill, Director of Business Development, said MD at Home is trying to solve a “gap of care” and prevent hospitalizations.  

The virtual medical service, Teledoc, allows people to speak with a licensed doctor or therapist via phone, web or mobile. Teledoc has more than 20 million members, or patients, in 130 countries.

Other medical groups provide at home nursing services as well as hospice assistance. Each service caters to different patient populations. For instance, Chicago Express Doctors works with travelers who don’t want to go to the ERs while away from home, and people with tight schedules. MD at Home works more with geriatric patients in their homes.

However, all the services are meant for non-emergency medical care. Even with former ER doctors on staff, Chicago Express Doctors advises people go to the ER when facing emergency situations.

Portion of Navy Pier Flyover to temporarily close

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

According to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will temporarily close the new section of the Navy Pier Flyover that opened last December on Sept. 3. 

The flyover will re-open in late September.


The closure is required in order to connect the completed segment to the second phase of the project, which is nearing completion. The closure was delayed until after Labor Day to avoid the height of biking season. 

During this closure, pedestrians and bicyclists will be directed with signage to use the old route of the Lakefront Trail at street level across Illinois and Grand on Lower Lake Shore Drive. 


When the trail reopens, the two portions of the trail will connect a temporary bridge to the east sidewalk of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge. A ramp from the Flyover down to Navy Pier and Illinois Street will also be open at that time.


Work will continue through the fall on Phase 3 of the Navy Pier Flyover. It involves retrofitting the existing LSD Bridge with a cantilever structure on the east side of the span that will allow for widening the trail to eliminate the existing bottlenecks users encounter. 

New Eastside cancer survivor runs to raise funds

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastside resident Alan Goldman remembers what it was like when he got the news he had prostate cancer 12 years ago. It was during a routine physical.

“My first thought was, this is the first time I was exposed to something so severe, that could affect my entire life,” he said. “I wanted to fight it aggressively, and I wanted it out of my body ASAP. I wanted it done swifty and I wanted a finality so I wouldn’t have to fight this my entire life.”

The prostate is a small gland useful for reproduction found only in men. It is also a common source of cancer—after skin cancer it is the second-most common form of cancer in men. 

Goldman made it through OK. He said his brother in law had prostate cancer, so he had a support network in his family and these days, he is fit and healthy. 

“The surgery was very successful,” he said. “I’m very healthy. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess.”

But he is not done fighting—if not for himself, then for other men across the nation. 

For the past three years, Goldman has been raising money and running in SEA Blue Chicago Prostate Cancer Walk and Run. This year’s run is Sept. 15 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincoln Park. 

The walk and run is Chicago’s oldest prostate cancer fundraiser and it raises money for Us TOO International, a nonprofit that supports men who are dealing with prostate cancer and their families.

“I wanted to get involved in something that’s had a big impact on my life,” he said. 

Goldman did more than get involved. He is now on the board of Us TOO, and he is co-chair of the SEA Blue walk and run. Goldman’s charity work helps hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

“The money goes to support groups around the United States and we have over 200 support groups,” he said. 

Goldman explained that prostate cancer is a disease that afflicts men, but it affects the family—even after the patient beats the disease. One of the side effects of removing the prostate, for example, is erectile dysfunction and that alone can cause trauma. 

“That could be devastating to a person’s psyche,” he said. 

Goldman also suggested men over 50 get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every year. This blood test can screen for prostate cancer and it can save lives. 

“Most men don’t go in for an annual PSA test,” Goldman said. “Men think they’re fine if they feel fine. But you could have a cancer growing in your prostate and you can feel fine.”

To sign up for the charity walk and run, visit ustoo.rallybound.org. 

Largest biomedical research facility in U.S. opens in Streeterville

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

In June, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine unveiled the largest academic biomedical research facility in the United States.

Opening ceremonies for the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center, 303 E. Superior St., included local officials as well as Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The facility will provide additional space for biomedical research and, according to a news release, the school is the fastest-growing research center among U.S. medical schools.

Pritzker said the Chicago facility will attract top talent.

“Building the best biomedical research hub right here in Streeterville means that we can attract researchers from all around the globe,” the governor said. “And it also means the best and the brightest will stay right here in Chicago.”

Kimberly Querrey, for whom the building is partially named, said she expects the research done in the facility will change human health.

“Lou [Simpson] and I are fortunate to be able to support the biomedical community and we’re humbled by the collaboration of the many scientists in this room committed to improving human life,” she said.

The 12-story building was designed by Perkins and Will and features a curved-glass exterior and offers Northwestern 625,000 square feet of research space. In addition, the building is designed for a future expansion that can more than double its size vertically, with up to 16 new floors in the second phase of construction.

According to the release, the site will be staffed by 2,000 people and is expected to generate $390 million a year in economic activity.

‘Divercity,’ a storytelling event featuring people with disabilities, to be held June 21—23

(Published June 21, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastside resident Tekki Lomnicki, the founder of Tellin’ Tales Theatre, announced the annual “Divercity” performance will be held June 21 through 23 at the Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston.

The shows feature individuals with disabilities telling stories about their disabilities. There are seven performers—including Lomnicki—in this year’s lineup.

Lomnicki founded Tellin’ Tales in 1996 as a way to help people with disabilities communicate their stories with others.

“We give adults with physical and emotional disabilities such as bipolar disorder and depression a chance to tell their stories and be on stage,” she said. “There aren’t enough actors with disabilities on stage.”

The fundraiser for the Tellin’ Tales Theatre, which offers storytelling classes for people with disabilities,includes performers from New Eastside as well as from the whole of Chicagoland.

“Telling our stories is the best connection we have to people,” Lomnicki said. Lomnicki also stages the stories so actors with disabilities can perform the scenes while the storyteller performs on stage.

The stories are personal. Lomnicki  said one performer, Linda Bannon, has no arms, and her son, 12, was also born without arms.

“She told her son, ‘you just have to push through this,’” Lomnicki said.

Other stories are humorous. Lomnicki said one storyteller has cerebral palsy and has slurred speech as part of his disability.

“He has problems going to bars because bouncers think he’s drunk and so he’s like, ‘this is just the way I talk,’” she said.

She said her free storytelling classes are so popular among the community of disabled people, she has to limit students to two years in a row in order to make room for new students. Besides a chance to get on stage, the classes allow students to constructively criticize others in the class.

“What’s really neat is people in the classes give feedback to each other,” she said. This helps students develop their own stories, as well as helping others.

Tickets, available at tellintales.org, are $20 or $15 for students and people with disabilities. Anyone interested in signing up for a course next year can email Lomnicki at tellintalestheatre@gmail.com.

Lomnicki said the theater company accepts donations at their website, tellintales.org and after June 25 the group will have a crowdfunding fundraiser at 3Arts.org/projects.

Headache Foundation honors Nobel laureate neurobiologist Eric Kandel

(Published May, 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago-based National Headache Foundation honored pioneering neurobiologist Eric Kandel in May as part of their annual gala fundraiser.

Kandel won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2000 for his work showing how memories can physically alter the brain. Kandel will be 90 in November, and in an exclusive interview with the News, he talked about his current research.

“I’m studying age-related memory loss,” he said.

Through experiments he has shown older adults can offset memory loss and improve memory through the release of osteocalcin, a hormone released from the bones. The best way to get it is by exercise and movement. Kandel said his discovery changed his life.  

“I walk everywhere,” he said. “I now walk to work, and I walk back (from)work, and I walk more than I used to.”

While Kandel said he personally hasn’t done extensive research in headaches, early in his career he studied spreading depression, which is thought to be the underlying cause of migraines.

“Headaches are a universal problem,” he said.

Among migraine sufferers is his granddaughter. During the awards ceremony, Kandel said might have changed his research if he was aware of  her condition earlier in his career.

“Had I known one of my grandchildren would develop migraine headaches, I would have continued to study migraines,” he said. “But, I’m still relatively young.”

Headache Foundation Executive Chairman Seymour Diamond praised Kandel’s work before awarding him the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“His work has contributed in so many ways to understanding headaches,” Diamond said.

The evening raised $225,000 for headache research.

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