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Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as the “winter blues” (or “winter blahs”) affects millions of people every year. If you’ve ever felt sluggish and depressed during the colder, darker months, you may have experienced this type of short-term depression yourself. Although this is characterized as a disorder, it may just be our minds and bodies encouraging us to take things a bit slower and hibernate a bit more until the warmer days of spring return.

As few of us can afford to take a few months off work so we can crawl under blankets and eat pie, we can take a few steps to alleviate these cold weather blues so they don’t interfere with our daily lives quite as much.

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Symptoms of the winter blues can include the following:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • General lethargy and loss of energy
  • The feeling of having heavy limbs that are troublesome to move around
  • Social withdrawal; feeling like you just want to be left alone
  • Fatigue and oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in socializing or other activities
  • Food cravings, especially for carbohydrates and fatty foods
  • Weight gain (likely from a combination of appetite changes and lack of exercise)
  • Difficulty concentrating

Does any of this sound familiar? Sure, we can all likely relate to a couple of those issues at some point in the winter, but if you find yourself checking off most of those symptom points, you might wish to take some steps to alleviate them. SAD usually clears up on its own as soon as the weather warms up again and we spend a bit more time in the sunshine, but the following tips and tricks can help to alleviate these symptoms a great deal.

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Light Therapy

Our energy levels are controlled by the hormones melatonin and serotonin. When we wake to daylight, serotonin kicks in to bring us focus and clarity. Melatonin is produced at night to help us wind down for restful sleep, but over the dark winter months (when we don’t get much exposure to sunlight), our bodies produce more melatonin than usual. This can make us sleepy, lethargic, and depressed, which can be difficult for those of us tending to small children or having to put together spectacular presentations at work. 

If you get yourself a small, medically-approved light box and plop it on your desk, you’ll receive similar effects to basking in summer sunshine while you work. That direct light beaming into your retinas can lift your spirits immensely and help to boost your energy levels. Aim for somewhere between 20 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on how miserable you feel. On days when you’re not working, just perch the light box on the table while you eat, read, or do homework.

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Exercise

Working out won’t just help you fight off winter weight gain‒it’ll lift your mood as well. Those natural endorphins that are released during a good workout will keep you smiling for a while, and the restful sleep you’ll get after pushing yourself a little can help too. If you manage to exercise outside, whether that’s cross-country skiing or even just taking a lot of walks outdoors, you’ll also get some great exposure to sunshine and fresh air.

Cut Back on Caffeine, Sugar, and Alcohol

Although a hot cup of coffee, chocolatey brownie, or glass of wine will make us smile for a little while, the inevitable crash will make us feel even worse later. Cut back on coffee and black tea, and stay hydrated with fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water instead. If you’re craving sugar, try chewing on some dried figs, or make yourself some power balls with dates, honey (or agave), and chopped nuts.

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Vitamins and Supplements

Some people find that supplements such as Vitamin D and Vitamin C help them to battle the winter blues, while others turn to St. John’s Wort tincture to raise their spirits. Consult your healthcare provided before taking any supplements, just in case there are contraindications with medications you’re already on, or side-effects that may interfere with any medical issues you may have.

If you find that you’re feeling really depressed, are turning to alcohol and/or drugs to lift your spirits, or if you’ve had any thoughts about suicide, please contact your doctor immediately. While the aforementioned supplements and such can work wonders to help mild SAD, more intense symptoms may require stronger measures.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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