For many people, winter can be a season that is a struggle to get through. Some report feeling glum or lazy. Others start craving foods that are rarely healthy. Many claim to feel moody or anxious. If you have one or a few of these winter blues symptoms, you may have what has been described as "Seasonal Affective Disorder" also known as SAD. Shortened days and cooler temperatures remarkably can have an effect on you. The good news is you don't have to give in. There is plenty that can be done to overcome this sluggish feeling that winter days have on some people. If you struggle with SAD, we'd like to offer some practical help.
Get up at your usual time
In the winter, with darkness lasting longer in the morning, you may be tempted to sleep in more. You tend to roll over, sink deeper into your pillow, and go back to sleep. What to do?
- Don't touch the snooze button on your alarm. Resist the temptation. When your alarm goes off, get up. In the long run, you will actually feel more alert.
- Can't resist the snooze button? Then move the alarm clock. Position it across the room and out of reach. This will force you out of bed.
Get outside more and exercise
Getting out, breathing fresh air, and being exposed to light counters symptoms of SAD. The addition of exercise gets your blood flowing which alleviates feelings of depression. Make a plan to try to get out as often as possible. Some ideas:
- If you let your dog out to roam about first thing in the morning, step out with him. Breathe in and welcome the new day!
- Try walking for part of your lunchtime or plan on walking with a friend in the late afternoon.
- Try an outdoor winter sport. You might just have fun pursuing a new activity.
- If possible, avoid any transportation a few times a week and walk or ride a bike instead.
- If going outside often is not an option, consider yoga classes, an exercise bike or joining a fitness club. If you can exercise near a window, then even better!
The point is to strategise for more ways to take advantage of the sun and light, even on winter days. Above all, be more vigilant about sticking to an exercise program during the winter months.
Eating well is always important, but we also know that when our mood isn't right, neither are our eating habits. Eating well keeps our body fit and positively affects mood. Some things to consider:
- Eating omega-3 and vitamin D3 rich foods seem to help relieve symptoms of the winter blues. Fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines, along with egg yolks, flaxseed and walnuts represent excellent choices.
- Carbs are the comfort foods we turn to, but the euphoria you first feel will quickly go away when the initial sugar levels that carbs produce suddenly drop. While carbs are important to relieving symptoms of SAD, not all are created equal. Consider "good" carbs like lentils, potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, black beans, barley, and legumes. For snacks consider pretzels, fruits, and popcorn.
A well-balanced diet is a sensible idea for any season and both you and your body will feel better for it.
Scents are known to change or elevate moods by influencing a certain area of the brain. We have all experienced how certain aromas can bring back good memories. Using scents you like or known to have a calming effect can help soothe a not so cheerful mood or feeling of glumness.
- Reed diffusers are an excellent way of bringing a comforting scent to any room in your home. Fragrances of vanilla or even citrus would be good choices.
- Essential oils have long been used in aromatherapy to calm anxieties. Look for lavender based oils as well as bergamot, peppermint or the warmth of sandalwood and ginger.
Take a relaxing bath
Taking a bath is relaxing and also good for your skin. Taking care of yourself in this way can only help but elevate your mood. For a peaceful night's rest consider:
- Adding bath essence to the water. This is yet another way to include aromatherapy. Oils like lavender, almond, and avocado found in a bath essence smooth and protect skin.
- Always moisturize after bathing to lock in hydration and softness. Massaging lotions in your skin also gives you feelings of well-being.
Winter blues may creep in but taking steps to alleviate symptoms will make winter more bearable as you more happily look forward to spring!