December 12, 2014

Has the Winter Weather Got You Down?

Are you feeling tired, irritable or simply just, “down in the dumps?” If so, it is likely that you are suffering from the dreaded condition, Winter Blues. The official name for it is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), interesting acronym, isn’t it?

Now, I am not generally one for labels, as too often, labels are nothing more than a tactic for “a quick fix” and to sell more drugs. However, it is estimated that 15% of Canadians experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder this time of year. According to studies, the decrease in exposure to sunlight, lower activity levels and less socializing are all key factors in contributing to the cause the of the Winter Blues. There has been much research on the subject but, unfortunately, the direct cause still eludes the experts.

But, there is good news! Despite the lack of a clear cause, there are things you can do to fight these Blues away! With just a few simple changes, you can affect a drastic turnaround in the way you think and feel:

1. Get Up and Get Moving
Recreation or exercise raise the brain’s serotonin and endorphin levels, positively enhancing your mood and leaving you feeling less stressed. You’ll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly. It has been proven to boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem! Regular physical activity does help prevent depression and gives a natural energy boost and, it promotes better sleep. Try to get between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity into your day, everyday. Take a walk outside, go skating or hit the gym. It doesn’t have to be all work – it can be fun too!

2. Smart Snacking
Include proteins, veggies and complex carbohydrates in your snack selection to feel more alert. Simple carbs only raise your blood sugar temporarily, giving you a boost of energy then quickly leaving you feeling tired. So, toss those chips and go for something that will give you a longer lasting boost like a plate of raw veggies or whole grain pasta. Have some fun with it and enjoy some ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins on celery)!

3. Drink and Be Merry
Make sure you are getting enough water! The role of water in our bodies is nothing less than miraculous. It affects us on a number of levels like: flushing toxins from the body, supplying the body’s tissues with oxygen and nutrients, it is essential for circulation, protects cells from disease and viruses, and so much more! Dehydration causes migraines, fatigue, indigestion, and even muscle cramping – negatively contributing to the affects of the winter blues. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they negatively affect your sleep which can leave you irritable, depressed, and generally un-refreshed.

4. Think of Doing a “Detox” Protocol
Great companies like Douglas Laboratories have easy “Detox” Programs (7 days) that will help you cleanse your liver and lower digestive tract in order for you to absorb your nutritents more efficiently and achieve optimal health. I strongly suggest that my patients complete a 7 day “Detox” every season.

5. Let There Be Light!
Sunshine is a vital ingredient for staying healthy and is your best source for essential vitamin D. Sunshine also helps to battle depression. So, if you can stand the cold, get outside! There are lots of fun activities to do outdoors during the winter months and exposure to natural light and fresh air have been shown to help lessen the affects of the winter blues and increase your overall health. Vitamin D supplements should be at least 1 to 2 IU in the winter months (unless you are a snowbird!).

6. Make Time for Friends
People tend to be less social during the winter months. Try to consciously set aside time for friends and family and laugh with them. Though it may be cliché, laughter really is the best medicine! Studies have shown that there are several physical health benefits of laughter. It has been shown to increase energy, reduce stress, lower blood-pressure, promote attentiveness and foster relaxation. I guarantee that this alone will lift your spirits!

7. Get Your Beauty Sleep
Sleep is important for a multitude of reasons but mainly to rebuild, repair and recharge your body. When you are asleep, your immune system is at its most active and repairs what it needs to while your brain re-organizes your cerebral ‘files’. Without sleep, you get sick in both mind and body. So, don’t deprive yourself of this essential step!

I hope that these 7 tips will help you in fighting off those winter blues. Try them out and, before you know it, it will be sunny and warm again! Do you have a winter ritual or specific things you do to keep the Winter Doldrums at bay? Please share them with me in the comments. I would love to hear what works for you!