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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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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

Affordable, relaxing, and healthy, oil diffusers are gaining popularity with people everywhere due to their extensive benefits. Oil diffusers work through the simple process of oil diffusion, which uses heat to turn oil into a vapor that is then spread around a living space. Diffused oil can have several relaxation and health-related benefits, including safe scent-dispersion, mosquito and mold defense, stress relief, and more!

Read on for 11 hidden benefits of using oil diffusers.

1. Safe Scents That Make Sense

Unlike candles or air fresheners, oil diffusers release cleansing molecules into your air that work to purify it, not overload it with unhealthy chemicals. Electronic diffusers also do not pose the fire risk that candles do. Plus, they contain the added feature of interchangeability, which means you change oil types for different scents and health benefits.

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2. Stress Relief

Several lab studies have confirmed that diffusing essential oils like lavender have been shown to reduce stress and help relieve anxiety in medical patients. Preliminary studies have also shown that oil diffusers can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

3. Improved Sleep

Diffused oil has relaxing properties that can help people of all ages fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly. Electronic diffusers not only have the option to mix and match different oil blends (Try a lavender, Bulgarian rose, and Roman chamomile blend to help with insomnia), they also run at a gentle hum that helps relax an agitated mind. Many also come with an auto shut-off feature to help conserve oils once you have fallen asleep.

4. Appetite Control

Much like gum, oil diffusers can help stimulate the senses in a way that works to curb appetite. New research has shown that diffused peppermint oil can help curb appetite by inducing a satiety response within the body. Diffused peppermint oil has also been shown to increase energy.

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5. Bacteria and Mold Killing

When essential oils are diffused in the air, they break down free radicals that contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria. Eucalyptus, thyme, and tea tree oils are especially good for this purpose. Diffused oil is also highly effective when it comes to combating fungal yeast threats, as the oil help makes the air inhospitable for yeasts such as mold. Pine and red thyme essential oils are best for combating mold.

6. Decongestion and Mucus Control

Ever tried Vick’s Vapo-Rub? Its decongesting powers come from active ingredients made from the eucalyptus tree. In principle, oil diffusers work the same way as Vapo-Rub, except they diffuse their decongesting vapor all around the room, not just on your chest or neck. Oil diffusers have been known to cure pneumonia in lab mice.

7. Mosquito Repellant

Nobody likes mosquitoes — but when the trade-off means using repellants full of DEET, a toxic chemical that can be especially harmful to children, mosquito control can often seem like a lose-lose. However, scientists have shown that oil diffusers can be used as a safe and highly effective mosquito repellant. Studies have shown that a diffused oil mixture containing clove essential oil and lemongrass essential oil repelled one type of Zika-carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, at a rate of 100%.

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8. Pain Relief

While applying oils directly to areas of your body may be the most effective way to alleviate pain, diffusing essential oils can also be an effective means of pain relief. When we inhale healthy essential oils, they enter our blood stream and can help internally relieve persistent pain from headaches, overworked muscles, and sore joints.

9. The New Anti-Viral

Research into the anti-viral effects of oil diffusion is now just gaining steam. A recent study showed that star anise essential oil was proven in medical experiments to destroy the herpes simplex virus in contained areas at a rate of 99%. Another study showed the popular DoTerra oil blend OnGuard to have highly-effective influenza-combating powers.

10. Improved Cognitive Function

Diffusing essential oils has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Many essential oils have adaptogenic qualities, which can work twofold in soothing us when we’re stressed, and giving our bodies a pick-me-up when we’re feeling down or sluggish. By working to level out an imbalanced mood, diffused oils also help us to focus. There are also several essential oils which have been shown to help balance the body’s hormones. With prolonged use, these oils can work to repair the underlying causes responsible for hindering cognitive function.

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11. Money Saving

With ten clear benefits of oil diffusers already outlined, there is one more that should now be obvious: using an oil diffuser will help you to save money. As an anti-viral, bug repelling, and stress-relief solution rolled into one safe product, an oil diffuser used with the proper oils will save you money on products you might otherwise be buying to help cure those pesky headaches or get your kids to fall asleep on time. If you’re wondering just how affordable oil diffusers can be, check the buyer’s guide to the best oil diffusers — you’ll be sure to find one that fits your budget!

Featured photo credit: Jopeel Quimpo via unsplash.com

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