How to fight winter blues
Now that the chill of fall is here, learn how to tackle seasonal sadness
As the days get shorter and the cold weather creeps in, it’s only natural to be impacted by the change in season. To add insult to injury, because of the health crisis, many people will be limiting their movement, dreading the frigid and dreary weather and settling in for a potentially long, lonely winter.
What are winter blues?
Many people enjoy the initial relief from the summer’s heat that fall brings. But, when it starts to get much colder and darker, according to Rush University Medical Center, around 14% of Americans experience winter blues, with feelings of lethargy, gloom and fatigue. Harvard says, “About 25% of people living in the middle and northern regions of the United States get the winter doldrums—milder changes in mood, alertness, energy, and appetite.”
The pandemic, which is requiring people to avoid social situations, stay cooped up – isolated or quarantined – has made the situation more extreme for many.
How to overcome winter blues
Aside from following the sun and the earth’s proximity to it so you’re always living in spring or summer climates, there are still steps you can take to combat winter blues and energy shifts during the colder, darker days of winter. If you’re struggling with how to fight winter blues, here are some insights on coping and taking charge, and ideas that may boost your own creative brain waves:
1. Pay attention to how you’re feeling
Rush University Medical Center highlights the signs to recognize:
· General sadness and a lack of energy (the most common symptoms)
· Difficulty sleeping
· Feeling less social than usual
· Difficulty taking initiative
2. Don’t ignore your symptoms
If you piece together a pattern in these symptoms, talk with a medical professional. Because symptoms can be emotional and/or physical, it’s important to rule out other causes. If these problems interfere with your performance at work, functioning at home or relationships, address them sooner rather than later.
3. Take action to make sure your body is in balance
Some people may experience winter blues because their bodies are deficient in brain-health nutrients. So, fortifying with nutritional supplements clinically proven to prevent winter blues may chase away the sloth in you and drive away that winter distress. According to scientific research in the medical journal, Advances in Therapy, one supplement prevents winter doldrums while boosting focus and cognitive function, so it may also help you concentrate on activities you want to pursue. This same formula, in a higher dose has also been shown to strengthen the body’s stress response in people with high chronic stress.
4. Catch some rays when you can
Humans need natural sunlight, and not just because they find themselves smiling more on sunny days. Scientific researchers believe that natural sunlight can help our bodies maintain their natural circadian rhythms, driving times of alertness and energy as well as sleepiness. Natural light exposure also boosts serotonin, a key mood-related neurotransmitter.
According to research, vitamin D plays an important role in regulating mood and metabolism. The body takes in sunlight – and works nature’s magic to produce vitamin D. Harvard and others have called it “the sunshine vitamin.” Yes, you can supplement with vitamin D, but why not get it right from the source?
Even if you’re not outdoorsy, take a walk during your lunch break or stroll over to the coffee shop to pick up your morning pumpkin spice latte – before you reach for your car keys. Escape cabin fever by finding an outside winter activity or routine that speaks to you. Put out a bird feeder that needs refilling periodically, plant a very simple window herb garden, find a walking partner or volunteer at the animal shelter to walk a dog. Think of other things that would draw you outside despite the cold.
5. Get physical
Exercise improves mood, increases alertness and suppress the appetite. It gets your blood pumping and helps circulation. Regardless of the type of exercise you choose, physical exertion can shake off your melancholy mood, and believe it or not, boost your energy and help keep your brain sharp. Start slow if you haven’t exercised in a long time, and if you’re having trouble getting off the sofa, set small doable goals for yourself. Mayo Clinic recommends exercising at least three times a week for 30 minutes to keep your mood and motivation steady. If exercising outside, take special safety precautions in the dark and cold weather. When the first snow of winter arrives, even if you’re a couch potato, you can step outside to catch snowflakes on your tongue, remind yourself how to make a snow angel or play snow golf.
6. Stay social
While it’s difficult for many to socialize and stay physically distant at the same time, find creative ways to remain connected to and interact with important people in your life – family members and friends – people you can confide in. Reserve some one-on-one time with your bestie or buddy, schedule a virtual dinner party or wine-tasting event, play one of the hundreds of online card games, plan your next joint vacation or springtime activity or share your herb garden harvest. As they say, misery loves company, so meet new people by joining or initiating a new book or movie club or hosting an online class to teach others your favorite craft or skill – or join a class already in progress to pick up a new talent.
The seasons impact people differently
People are affected by seasonal changes to varying degrees. A more intense form of winter blues, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes on in the late fall and early winter and lasts until spring or early summer.
According to Harvard Medical School, SAD “is also associated with impaired cognitive function, including problems with concentration and working memory — like having trouble recalling just-learned information or finding the right words when speaking.”
Psychology Today reports that seasonal affective disorder affects about 10 million Americans.
There are lots of ways to fend off seasonal sadness
When a miserable mood or being shut in have you climbing the walls, it may be hard to figure out how to overcome winter blues. But, it’s important not to ignore your seasonal distress and apathy. Keep in mind, you don’t have to wait for the sunlight and warmer weather return to start feeling better.