Do you suffer from the Winter Blues?
Well, you’re not alone. Many people feel down and suffer from mild to moderate depressive symptoms during the colder, darker months. Winter delivers us several blows with a lot less natural sunlight and the days get dark very early. We can often feel shut up and isolated for more hours than we would like and the warmth of a comfy warm house and pj’s can seem so much more attractive than making the effort to go out. Is this starting to sound like you?
You and many others. So many people suffer from the Winter Blues, that it actually has a medical name! It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. Although Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur in any season of the year, winter seems to be the most common time. Do remember that it is normal to have ‘down’ or low mood days, especially in response to tiredness or negative situations. It is not normal to be experiencing more down days than good days or these emotions for no established reason. So what are the symptoms you might be experiencing?
- Lack of energy, motivation or desire
- Teary / over emotional
- Extreme tiredness
- Social withdrawal / isolation
- Craving for comfort foods / weight gain
- Lack of concentration / brain fog
- Excessive sleep or desire to sleep
When should you get help?
If the above symptoms are prolonged, not shifting and there are more bad days than good, you definitely need help. As the condition is seasonal, it might be a great time to see what natural options may be available to you.
What can you try?
1) The first place to start is light therapy. Leave all of your bright lights on as the afternoon light fades and replace all light globes with the brightest you can find. Add extra light fittings or lamps to help with this if needed. Dim light or darkness, triggers melatonin production – our sleep hormone. So the dimmer the lighting, the sleepier and more tired you will feel. By mimicking natural light, you can help avoid this.
2) Look for things that make you feel good. Whilst I’m not a fan of the cold weather, I am a fan of many things associated with winter, such as ugg boots, cozy fires or heaters, cuddly throw rugs, a glass of red, movie nights and the wealth of beautiful warm, well-cooked foods. My favourites are soups, curries and the slow cooker with casseroles etc. All of these foods can be highly nutritious and easy to digest. And they fulfill the desire for comfort foods. So indulge in seasonal produce. Make a list of the things you DO like, instead of focusing on the parts you don’t like.
3) Vitamins and minerals can help too. Even though you can get nutrients from yummy foods, the fact that you have unwanted symptoms might highlight the need to further supplement. Your body needs nutrients to function and manufacture the happy brain chemicals. Find out what your body needs. Magnesium can help you relax and low Vitamin D has long been scientifically linked to depression. Other nutrients such as zinc, selenium and Vitamin C can help protect you from getting sick – which will further add to your blues. Staying well is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. If you are prone to getting winter lurgies, something in your body is already out of balance.
4) SAMe is a naturally occurring chemical in the body, made from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and energy molecules. Supplementing SAMe has been researched and may assist your winter depression but also help oestoeoarthritis, which can be at it’s worse during winter.
5) Herbal medicine can also assist. You need to be careful though, as if you are already on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, most of the herbs indicated for the same conditions will interact with them. So best to steer clear. If not taking medications, you can safely take herbs such as St John’s Wort, which has been clinically researched to be effective for mild to moderate depression. Other herbs that may be of assistance are passiflora, some ginsengs, magnolia and herbs to support your adrenal glands and help your body cope and resist stress, such as Withania. Herbs indicated to protect your immune system such as Astragalus, andrographis and olive leaf, may also be of benefit.
Still sounding like you?
Get some help. Get professional advice to tailor the right plan to your winter needs. Self-prescribing can often end up very expensive and not even close to fixing the problem. Extra caution should also be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Many treatments are not recommended during these times. With the right help, you can get through the seemingly long, cold winters and you never know, maybe even enjoy them more.