Do you tend to feel more depressed, anxious or moody during the winter season? Many feel some degree of winter blues which typically starts in October and ends in April. Sensitivity to light deprivation causes a disruption in circadian rhythm which is our internal body clock. Sensitivity level depends on genetics, geographical location and individual brain chemistry. Some suffer from a more severe type of winter sadness called Seasonal Affective Disorder which requires treatment from a mental health professional. For less severe symptoms of the winter blues there are many tips to help you cope.
- Expose yourself to daylight. Open blinds and curtains to all windows and if possible sit near a window at work.
- Use a light therapy box. This is a special light that mimics natural outdoor light to trigger brain chemicals that improve mood. Sit a few feet from the light box within the first two hours of waking up.
- Get outside. Even if it is cold or cloudy it is important to spend some time outdoors. This is especially helpful within the first two hours of awakening.
- Manage your stress. Learn what techniques you respond to. This may include listening to music, talking to a friend, taking a relaxing bath or reading a book.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep is the time our body has to replenish itself and make brain chemicals that make us happy. Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep daily.
- Use relaxation techniques. Yoga, tai chi and mediation are effective at relieving stress.
- Exercise daily. Exercise is a powerful tool to improve mood because it increases blood flow to the brain, releases energizing hormones and stimulates endorphins that make us feel good. All forms of physical activity are beneficial so take a walk, lift weights or take a Zumba class.
- Eat nutritious meals. Maintain a steady production of blood sugar levels and neurotransmitters by eating regular meals that consist of protein and carbohydrate.
- Spend time with your pet. Pets have a profound effect on our brain chemistry by increasing oxytocin which is another brain chemical that makes us feel happy. If you do not have a pet, a visit to a local animal shelter would be very much appreciated for a homeless animal.
It is important to manage your winter blues because it can result in fatigue, weight gain from stress induced eating or Seasonal Affective Disorder.