Do your energy levels tend to plumet as the days get shorter and the temperature begins to drop? Do you experience more down days than up days during the fall and winter months? For years, I could never understand why I felt down and depressed during my most favorite time of the year. I love the fall! I love the fall weather, I love Football Saturdays, I love fall festivals, fall foods – all of it! So why, would I begin to feel sad or depressed at times? I would think to myself, I have a great life – wonderful family, supportive husband, great kids (sure they drive me crazy on occasion but overall, really good, sweet kids!) What do I have to be sad about? Why can’t I appreciate all of these wonderful gifts, I am so fortunate! I would chalk it up to the busy days, trying to keep up kids’ activities, weekend adventures, as well as all of the practical life stuff – teaching classes, training for the next race, doing laundry, prepping meals, attending and volunteering in school functions, etc. After a lot of self-reflection, self-growth and simply slowing down to search for the answers within, I begin to realize what I was experiencing and how I needed to be supported during this transition from summer to fall then into winter.
10-20% of people experience mood changes and similar symptoms to depression every year and can last as long as 4 months. It is usually triggered by the change of season heading into the fall and winter months. The days get shorter, temperatures drop, most people work during the daylight hours keeping them from getting enough sunlight which effects their Vitamin D levels. The shorter daylight hours and less sunlight has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain. People experience a shift in their biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule. These symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming causing interference with their daily functioning.
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms?
Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others)
Feeling worthless or guilty
Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek the help of a trained medical professional. As these symptoms are similar to depression, it is important to make sure there is no other medical condition causing symptoms. These symptoms can be misdiagnosed in the presence of hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, and other viral infections, so proper evaluation is key. A mental health professional can diagnose the condition and discuss therapy options. With the right treatment, the winter blues can be manageable.
For some people, increased exposure to sunlight, light therapy, social outings, movement, proper diet/nutrition, and sleep can help improve their mood and their symptoms. I found that a consistent morning routine helps me to start my day off right. It gives me energy, focus for the day, and clears my mind. Some of my non-negotiables are body scans and morning check-ins, rehydrating my body with water, movement – preferably running but I also enjoy the Peloton, yoga, and power walks through my neighborhood. Getting sunlight first thing in the morning sets my internal clock and gives my mind some clarity. To help support my body and mind during the winter months, I focus on eating good quality organic whole foods to fuel my workouts and my brain. Leafy greens such as arugula, swiss chard, watercress and bok choy as well as blueberries, salmon, eggs, dark chocolate, and turmeric help to support my brain health. I aim for direct sunlight first think in the morning as well as in the afternoon. I also use red light therapy to increase my energy by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. If interested in learning more about how to better support yourself through diet and lifestyle changes to improve these symptoms or prevent the winter blues set up a free consultation with me at www.rollingacreswellness.com!