The Winter Blues

The darkness of winter fell over my home around mid morning. It had been raining for days and the forecast predicted solid rain for the next 10 days, which was as far into the future as would let me see. I live in the Pacific Northwest and this is the usual weather pattern for January, but it does not fare so well with most of the residents. I think the bears have it right hibernating for months on end because when the winter blues set in, that becomes my natural instinct as well.
Winter is a quieter time. I remember when I first moved to Portland from sunny and warm Sydney, Australia. My first winter here I was surprised that people seemed to disappear, no one seemed to be out and about anymore. It was the oddest experience to see them all reemerge again in the spring, like bears coming out of hibernation. I’d never lived in a place where people disappeared into their houses for a season, but perhaps that’s because I had never lived in a place as grey and rainy as the Pacific Northwest.
Following the rhythms of nature, we need winter to help slow us down and be quieter. Maybe we slow down in some ways, but I don’t think we slow down enough to make the winter season truly count. With the advent of electricity and so much technology we turn on the lights and stay up late watching television, playing video games, working on the computer, messing around on our cell phones and other busy indoor activities. As a result, we stay up late and most of us do not get the good quality sleep that we need to recharge our bodies. We may physically be inside, but our minds are not.
To take full advantage of the quietness of winter I encourage you to turn your electronics off earlier. Dim the lights an hour before bed, have some warm calming herbal tea, take a bath, read a book, or do anything that is quiet and relaxing before going to bed. Do your best to get adequate sleep of at least seven hours. Taking a much-needed break from technology will help reduce stress on many levels, including the stress of the winter blues.
Soon spring will be here and we can awaken with a renewed sense of energy.

Helpful tips for Managing Stress and the Winter Blues

❤ Exercise: It is #1 for anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress management and appetite control. Do whatever exercise you like to do to get your heart rate up and keep it up for 30 minutes. Or if you are not a big exerciser than at least get your body moving. Get out and about, walk in place in your home, dance around the house, join in an exercise or yoga class on the TV – you get the idea. Stretching is also very helpful. Any movement is better than none and walking is always a great choice.

❤ Get lots of sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours each night. Find a regular bedtime (best before midnight) and do your best to keep to it (our bodies like routine).

❤ Eat healthy and nourishing foods. Hearty foods like soup, stews and the like are warming.

❤ Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates as they make our blood sugar levels first rise and then drop. It’s the drop that causes mood disturbances.

❤ Try light box therapy. For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder and what to purchase visit the Mayo Clinic’s page on the issue.

❤ Give yourself the luxury of daily relaxation. Learn to meditate or just sit and breathe. Aim for at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time each day.

*If sitting still with your eyes closed is not what you like to do perhaps you’d like to check out scenic relaxation DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. These DVDs have spectacular scenery of some of the most well-known places in the USA and include soft relaxation music, ambient sounds, and Alpha,Theta and Delta brain wave frequencies which help to relax the brain. You can find these DVDs here.

❤ Read a great book where you can be absorbed into the story (a nice getaway without financial cost!).

❤ Supplements: please consult your health care practitioner on the appropriate doses to take. Also request testing for your Vitamin D levels.

* Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): besides aiding in cardiovascular health it is helpful in combatting depression and other mental health issues and enhances learning, focus and attention.

* Vitamin D3: besides its importance for bone growth, it aids in neuromuscular and immune function, and in reducing inflammation in the brain and body (stress increases inflammation). Get out in the sunshine whenever you can.

* Probiotics: vital to the development of our immune systems. A strong immune system will help protect us from colds, flus, and other viruses, as well as aiding other body systems. Keeping well makes us feel much better.

If you are coming in to see me in my office please let me know if you need any of these quality pharmaceutical grade supplements.

More information on what it takes to be healthy in mind, body and spirit can be found in my new online mental health course, Becoming Your Best.

Eilise Ward