Beating the Winter Blues

Winter 2Winter can be a gloomy time of the year with grey skies and lots of rain in this part of the world. Many people are affected by dark weather and shorter days in winter and get depressed or feel weary. Some people only experience a mild case of winter blues and just feel a little down. For others the dark weather changes the entire sense of well-being. This is when we talk of seasonal affected disorder (SAD). People with SAD find it difficult to continue with everyday lives when the symptoms are at their worst.

Symptoms vary and may include feeling sad, grumpy, moody, hopeless or anxious. Other signs may be craving sugar and carbohydrates, changing appetite and gaining weight. Often people sleep more, but still feel tired. Energy levels drop. The body may feel tensed and tight. People that are seasonally affected may have trouble concentrating and may lose interest in usual activities or social interactions.

Experts are not sure what causes SAD. But they think it may be caused by the lack of sunlight which disrupts our biological clock. This is our internal clock that controls our body’s rhythms. Reduced sunlight can also upset the brain’s chemicals, especially serotonin. Low serotonin levels affect mood, social behaviour, appetite, sleep, digestion and memory.

What to do about winter blues, winter depression and seasonal affected disorder (SAD)?

Not everyone can escape to a warm tropical island or to the desert in the winter. So let’s think about some options that are feasible for everybody. It is advisable to spend more time outdoors. Choose to go outside around noon when it is brightest! Maximise your exposure to natural sun light. Get yourself a light box and sit or work near the light therapy that gives off bright light mimicking natural outdoor light.

Regular exercise is crucial to beat the winter blues. Pick an activity that you enjoy. May it be walking, riding a stationary bike or swimming. Keep a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and healthy grains. Resist empty carbohydrates and sugar. Stick to a regular sleep pattern. This helps your body’s internal clock. Stay connected to others and have fun! It has been researched that social interactions lower stress and depression levels.

Increasing self-awareness and connectedness to your own body and mind may be essential to elevate your feelings and mood. Helpful methods are meditation, Alexander Technique or yoga. Additioally, Reflexology treatments have shown to be effective in staying centered and well connected to yourself during the winter months. And last but not least, reach for the Bach Flower Remedies!

The Bach Flower Remedies is a natural healing system comprised of 38 remedies. The essences are prepared from specific wild flowers or parts of a plant. Each remedy resonates with a specific emotional or mental state such as anxiety, guilt, grief or loneliness. The remedies help to gently restore emotional balance and promote health and well-being.

There are different reasons for being down or feeling depressed, and exploring these emotions will lead to the appropriate remedies. You don’t really need a practitioner to find the remedies that you need. The Bach Flower Remedies is considered a self-help system. However, especially if you are not familiar with the system yet, you may find it helpful to consult with a Registered Bach Flower Remedies practitioner, BFRP.

Here are some of the remedies that might help beating the winter blues:

MUSTARD for feeling down and depressed for no apparent reason. In the Mustard state you feel a dark cloud has descended onto you; you are unable to enjoy anything. Mustard helps to be more accepting of the ebb and flow of emotions and gives you confidence to pass through difficult times.

WILLOW for feeling resentful and bitter. If you feel life has been unfair and you feel sorry for yourself, Willow might be helpful. The remedy helps to move away from self-pity and to actively take your life into your own hands.

HORNBEAM for lacking motivation and energy to master the demands of life. In a Hornbeam state, you feel weary at the thought of the next task and tend to procrastinate. Hornbeam restores strength we need to face the day and get on with our lives.

ELM for feeling overwhelmed by the daily task and challenges. This remedy is for people who usually feel capable and confident until they are faced with an unusual amount of responsibilities. They feel overwhelmed and depressed, because they feel unable to cope. Elm restores confidence and the ability to deal with this overload.

GENTIAN for feeling discouraged or disappointed. Often the Gentian state occurs as the result of a setback; we are about to lose faith in ourselves. Gentian helps to restore faith and confidence and creates a more positive outlook on life.

Please note that the Bach Flower remedies do not address clinical depression with deep underlying issues. Then it is advisable to see a psychotherapist or clinical counsellor.