It’s no secret that the holiday season isn’t always jingle bells and gingerbread. With shorter, gloomier days looming and cold temps keeping us indoors, it can sometimes feel like summer is light years away. Pile on the added stress of traveling, entertaining, and dysfunctional family time, it’s a wonder any of us make it through in one piece. Luckily, there’s a long list of ways to hack the winter blues that will lead you to glide into the new year with ease.
Get some light!
A ton of people experience a downswing of mood that comes with the darker Winter months. We call it SAD for Seasonal Affective Disorder (ironic, right?) and about 70-80% of those diagnosed with SAD are women, with the common age of onset starting in your 30’s. One of the best ways to counteract symptoms of SAD (fatigue, depression, mood swings, etc) is to get some light exposure.
Outdoor light, even on overcast days, still provides more light than a light box, so if you can get exposure to natural light, I highly recommend doing so. Several studies show that SAD symptoms subsided when sufferers spent one hour outside daily. If you can’t get outside, light boxes can be a good option. Look for one that’s designed specifically to treat SAD. 10,000 lux shows best results and you want to ensure minimal UV light is released or maximum UV is filtered out.
Supplement to support mood and stress
Luckily, the supplementation list for both mood and stress tend to be pretty similar. Typically, higher stress creates lower mood because stress depletes the body’s natural stores and abilities to create raw materials necessary for functioning.
5HTP – is synthesized from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that acts as a mood regulator) encourages increased serotonin levels to promote a heightened sense of wellbeing and plays a role in healthy sleep/wake cycles.
B-Complex Plus – is essential for nervous system functioning, so getting the proper amount can improve mood. In particular, B6 is an important nutrient in the production of serotonin and its deficiency can contribute to SAD and B12 has been shown to help those suffering from depression and anxiety.
Magnesium – is rapidly decreased when we are under stress. Magnesium enables our nervous system to keep calm on a cellular level. It’s also essential for serotonin and melatonin production. Due to poor soil, much of our food isn’t as high in magnesium as is ideal. I highly recommend supplementation during times of increased stress.
Vitamin D – is considered a hormone that helps to regulate mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Also, nearly every tissue in the body, including the brain, has receptors for vitamin D.
Probiotics – are not only important for maintaining a strong immune system, but 80-90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in our gut.
Flower Essence Remedies: St. John’s Shield – St. John’s wort has been shown to be effective against severe depression and depressive symptoms of SAD. Specifically, this flower essence blend is used to treat “winter blues,” when feeling sluggish, immobilized or otherwise beset with SAD, apply a this flower essence to the chest, throat, or solar plexus area.
Keep a close eye on your diet
It’s hard to find a more challenging time of year to stay on track when it comes to diet. Every other party seems to be filled to the brim with glutinous, sugary foods just waiting to tempt you. I get it- we’ve all been there, but now is a more important time than ever to avoid sweets and processed junk! This stuff will quickly throw you into a tailspin.
Foods to focus on:
Rather than focusing on the long list of foods to stay away from, shift your energy into trying to incorporate as many whole foods as you can. Before you hit the holiday parties, fill up on high quality, nutrient dense foods that will keep you satiated and reduce temptation. Beans, nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals to help keep you strong. Pack your plate with wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds are packed with Omega’s and these fatty acids have a role in the synthesis of serotonin. There is encouraging data about the use of omega’s to treat mood disorders and counteract stress in the body.
Get Enough Rest
The body resets between 10 pm and 2 am so the ideal time to go to bed is by 10 or 11 pm. Aim to get 7–9 hours of sleep every night in order to reduce stress, balance your hormones, prevent moodiness and reduce fatigue.
Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help to reduce your cortisol levels, improve your sleep quality, boost your productivity at home and at work, and improve your mood. There are many that I like – www.calm.com, www.headspace.com and www.unplug.com
One of the most challenging parts of the holidays is that people can feel isolated or they let their family and friends stress them out. Try to focus on how grateful you are to be you and be thankful for the good things in your life.
As soon as you feel the stress and mood creeping in, jump on these tips immediately. Catching these symptoms early can be the difference between enjoying your holiday season or dragging yourself out of a hole. You deserve to thrive!