Does this winter weather wear you down? After our cold spell a few weeks ago, we seem to be back to our usual BC West Coast winter: Dark skies, heavy cloud cover and rain that seems to go on forever!
Are you affected by the dark and dreary weather? Do you feel gloomy, lethargic or less social than usual?
You may only feel a little tired, down or less motivated. This dreary winter weather may only get to you sometimes, and it affects your mood and energy levels. That is normal. But when the season change affects people in more severe ways and when it changes the entire sense of well-being, we talk of seasonal affected disorder (SAD). People with SAD suffer more severely as it tends to interfere with normal functioning at home, work or in relationships. If you suffer from SAD, you may feel tired constantly, eat too much, struggle to focus, sleep more than usual or feel hopeless and sad.
It isn’t really clear what causes SAD, but winter SAD is most likely caused by lack of sunlight. Being deprived of natural light disrupts our biological clock, the internal clock that controls our body’s rhythms. The so-called circadian rhythm is disrupted by reduced sunlight which disturbs the brain’s chemicals, especially serotonin and melatonin. Low serotonin levels affect mood, social behaviour, appetite, sleep, digestion and memory. Melatonin may be overproduced which makes us sleepy and tired.
How much are you affected by the weather? It is advisable to contact a doctor or clinical counsellor, if you have severe SAD or depression. If you just suffer from a mild form of SAD, the so-called winter blues, these tips may help:
Get sunlight whenever possible! Exposure to natural day light helps boost serotonin production, lifts your mood and helps regulate your hormones and your circadian rhythm.
Expose yourself to a special light box. Use the light daily, most effective in the morning for 20 – 30 minutes. Check with yourself, if it boost your energy and mood. You may increase the time to 60 minutes, if necessary.
Keep moving! Regular movement increases your serotonin and endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Choose an exercise that you like, so it is easier to keep it up. Moderate exercise of 30 minutes daily such as brisk walking may provide a profound boost to your system.
Stock up on healthy food. It is easy to overindulge in comfort foods in the winter month… Reduce sugars and starchy foods. Load up on veggies and fruit. Studies show that people who eat food with a high content of fruit and vegetables are less likely to experience depression or other related conditions.
Sleep, wake and eat on a regular schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to help normalize your circadian rhythm. Eat at the same time also helps to encourage your internal clock to function well.
Stay active and balanced. Get engaged in activities that you enjoy! Take a dance class, go skiing, meet with your friends for dinner or get back to painting… Have something on your calendar that you look forward to. Balance your activities with time for yourself for self-care and rejuvenation.
Consider Reflexology. Reflexology promotes the healing powers in the body and helps regulate all functions including hormone production. It addresses physical as well as emotional processes. Many people have reported a more positive outlook on life taking Reflexology sessions.
Try Bach Flower Remedies. These flower essences have shown to be helpful when feeling down. Here are some Bach Remedies that help lift the spirits!
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.