Friday, 21 February 2014

The Winter Blues

Feeling insanely tired, unmotivated, hungry all the time, irritable, depressed, anti-social, headachy, sore, and just all around foul? You are not alone!

For a long time I thought seasonal depression was just for people who wanted to have one more thing to complain about during the winter months, but it turns out it is a real (and super annoying) thing! Scientists were also quite sceptical about seasonal depression, but it is now considered a common disorder. 

Here is how Wikipedia defines it:  "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depressionwinter blues, or seasonal depression, [is] considered a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter..." SAD... how ironic. 

It is thought to occur because of the shortened days in the winter and our lack of exposure to the sun, as the disorder is more prevalent in areas to the North. Combine this with mercury going into retrograde for the majority of February, limited access to fresh local produce, as well as an overall lack of physical activity and the feeling that you, and everyone around you, are losing their minds, and it's no wonder we are having difficulty this time of year! In the GTA specifically I have noticed the feeling of hopelessness among a lot of my coworkers, friends and family as we are continuously getting hit with storm after storm, freezing temperatures, ice storms and an abundance of drab grey days. I am not one to complain about the winter, but this year it seemed to be affecting people more so than it has in the past. At least in my circle. 




Well, we are in luck! I have searched around high and low for some ideas to make this time of year a little easier on us. As winter doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon, we have to do everything we can to keep ourselves and our families SAD free! Here are some tips I found:
  • Decorate the home with fresh and bright coloured flowers! Place a beautiful bouquet on your kitchen table and every time you sit down for a meal, it will be a pleasant reminder of what is just around the corner!

  • Put a pot of water on the stove to simmer with some chopped up apples and cinnamon sticks! The amazing aroma will help ease stress, take away a nasty pestering headache, and will increase your alertness! It will also make your home smell amazing! 

  • Make sure to stay hydrated both inside and out. Blasting the heat in our homes sure feels great, but it does a number on our skin! Drink more water than usual and make sure to hydrate your skin after hot showers and before you go to sleep. You will wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Try adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil into an unscented body lotion. The peppermint will ease you into a deep sleep but will also give you vivid dreams! Peppermint is such a refreshing scent and is said to boost creativity as well as increase circulation, stimulate nerve endings, relaxe sore muscles, and relieves pain and inflammation. It is also said to have natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties which can tone the skin and revitalize dull complexions. It's a win all around!
  • Take vitamin D daily to help compensate for decreased exposure to the sun. It will also boost your immunity to catching those nasty winter colds!
  • Load up your iPod with some upbeat music to listen to on your way to work. Music is said to have all kinds of positive effects on our mood! If you are in your car alone, feel free to join in as singing has been proven to release endorphins into our bloodstream! According to Julia Layton in her article Does Singing Make You Happy, "Singing gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation, which tends to promote a good mood. Singing [requires] deep breathing which is another anxiety reducer. Deep breathing is a key to meditation and other relaxation techniques, and you can't sing well without it."
  • Pay it forward. I have been hearing all kinds of beautiful stories about people paying for other peoples food in restaurants, leaving large tips for their waiters, delivering free food and drinks to the homeless etc. Doing something thoughtful for someone else and expecting nothing in return is so easy to do! We just have to be able to take some time out of our schedules and make it happen. It doesn't have to be a lot of money, but the fact that we took time out of our day to do something for someone else is going to make that person feel special. And the hope is that that person will do something nice for someone else and so on. It is a really easy and lovely way to make someones day! It will make you feel good as well, and what better way is there to beat the winter blues than that?!
  • Light therapy is another option although it is something that I personally would not pursue unless the issues you are having are to the point where they are interfering with your day to day abilities. The process involves exposing yourself to a light box or a fluorescent lamp to mimic daylight and help reset your internal clock. It has been said to help people who suffer from SAD but there are some risks and side effects such as headaches, nausea and jitteriness. I would pursue all other avenues first before trying this one unless recommended by a doctor. 
goLite® P2 Portable Light Therapy available at Costco.ca

  • And last by not least, try to get some more exercise. Eww I know! This is the one that I struggle with the most. People are so busy these days and the last thing you want to do when you come home after a long day at work is work out! However, adding even 20 minutes a day of physical activity can be amazing for your health! Try to follow this simple and relaxing yoga video.

Hopefully this gave you some options to ward off those SAD winter blues! Just remember that there are a lot of great things about winter. Celebrating the holidays with family is always something that I look forward to. Valentine's Day is a great time to do something nice for the special person in your life and the Oscars are on at the beginning of March, which means spring is just around the corner. As long as we can get through the next few weeks with our head above water, it will be smooth sailing right into summer! We can do it!

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