Do you seem to be tired a lot more than usual lately? Do you tend to get sick more often this time of year? Is it seeming harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, not to worry; you aren’t alone. Winter’s cold weather, shorter days, holiday stress, and indulgences are notorious for making people feel a little down in the dumps. But the fact that it’s normal for many people to feel less than stellar during the winter months doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to stay feeling that way.
In this post we’ve laid out some of the most common reasons why people get the winter blues, and give you the insider tips on what you can do to improve your mood. Try them out and get back to feeling like yourself again!
Less sunlight means your body wants more sleep
Because the days are much shorter during the winter compared to the summertime, it is not uncommon to wake up while it is still dark, spend the day indoors while working, and return home when the sun is setting. Even if you are not at work during the day, the winter weather does not necessarily lend itself to spending much time outdoors. The lack of sunlight that we get during the winter is one of the chief reasons why it may be tempting to spend the whole day in bed.
When we soak up the sunshine, a chemical called serotonin is released in our brain and this chemical is considered to be a “mood lifter”. It promotes a calm and focused mind so that we can work to the best of our ability during the day. When the sun sets another chemical, called melatonin, is released which helps us get ready for a good night’s rest by making us feel sleepy. This system works well during the summer, however during the winter there are many more hours spent in darkness, and therefore much more melatonin than serotonin produced.
Try this: sit by a window, if possible, while at work or in your home to get that dose of natural light. Also try using a small natural light lamp to brighten up your work area. These simulate sunshine and can be purchased for around $20 at your local pharmacy.
Your heating may be hanging you out to dry
If you find that you fall ill much more during the winter, there may be a very simple reason why. The cold weather has most of us turning up the thermostat and the issue with this, aside from the fact that it hikes up the heating bill, the heat takes the moisture out of the air. This is a problem because when you are always breathing in dry air the mucous membranes of the body, found in the eyes, nose, throat, stomach, intestines, and lungs, dry out as well. This leaves them less able to fend off bacteria and viruses as effectively, leaving you more likely to become sick.
Try this: if it isn’t too troublesome, try wearing a sweater to ward off the chills instead of red-lining the needle on the thermostat. But of course as it gets colder later in the season you will likely want to use your in-house heating more and more. So pair it with a humidifier to battle the dry heat and you’ll be doing your body a favour.
Diet and exercise take a nosedive
The cold weather has many of us reaching for the good old comfort foods – the ones laden with fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. The holiday season is infamous for its tempting treats, indulgences, and general gorging that tends to become a habit that’s hard to break. Coupled with the fact that it is much more appealing to cozy up indoors rather than brave the cold and go for a run or head to the gym, it’s a recipe for weight gain and laziness.
The real problem with indulging too much, however, is that you are likely foregoing the five servings of fruits and vegetables that you should be consuming each day. Fruits and veggies are known as being healthy for many reasons: they are low in calories and fat, they hold countless vitamins and minerals that our bodies crave, and they can reduce the risk of health issues like heart disease and and strokes.
They also are a great source of dietary fibre, without which all that sugar, fat, and carbohydrates found in comfort foods have a nasty tendency of blocking up your intestines. Fibre keeps things moving along in your gut and prevents bloating, which can be a definite mood ruiner.
We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t have a treat once in awhile, especially when it’s a special occasion. But be mindful of how many fruits and veggies you are eating too.
Try this: for every treat you indulge in, try to eat a serving of fruits or veggies too. This will help you to get in your dietary fibre and will fill you up faster so the temptations are kept at bay.
Stress ruins your sleep
The holiday season and the months surrounding it are well known for being the busiest time of year for many people. Whether that means professionally or in your personal life, the stress of doing too much and having a limited time to do it in can really wear us down.
Unfortunately, the perceived need to do so much makes for late nights and restless sleeps. Sleep is the time when your body relaxes and repairs itself so that you can start the next day with a clear head and strong body. But when your sleep schedule is thrown out of whack, your emotional state will likely suffer as well.
Try this: write a to do list with the little tasks at the top and the larger, more time consuming ones at the bottom. Starting with smaller chores won’t seem as daunting and you will feel accomplished when you can physically cross things off of the list. This will keep you organized and hopefully less stressed.
Talk to your doctor
If your seasonal slump is not budging and you feel like it may be a bigger issue, consult your family physician as you may require additional help to get you back on your feet. The effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are well documented and have some proven treatments.
We wish you luck at having the happiest of holiday seasons possible!