At this time of year, it is extremely common to find that the 'winter blues' are setting in. Having embraced the New Year and perhaps setting ourselves some (possibly unrealistic) resolutions many find that actually nothing much has changed or we have already failed to quit smoking, exercise more or lose weight.
If you have noticed all, or any, of the following symptoms then you may be suffering from seasonal depression (NOT to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder which is far more serious):
unwanted weight gain (or loss)
Here are our top five tips to combat seasonal depression...
1) CUT THE CR*P
Although the Christmas decorations are long gone, tell-tale reminders such as tins of sweets, biscuits and chocolate may still be hanging around. Stodgy comfort food is also very appealing when you are feeling cold and tired after a long day battling the elements.
Unfortunately, there are two problems with comfort eating - the obvious one being that piling on the extra pounds can lead to a cycle of guilt and thus more comfort eating. Secondly, the temporary boost you may feel from sweet sugary foods wears off quickly and can ultimately leave you feeling worse than before.
Similarly, you may be tempted by an alcoholic drink in the evenings, perhaps to warm yourself up or just to help you sleep but when you are feeling down. In these situations then it really is best to try and avoid alcohol as much as possible. In actual fact alcohol restricts the blood flow and so you are more likely to feel even colder. Also, although it can help some people to fall asleep you can easily become reliant on a drink to get to sleep and without you even being aware of it your sleep patterns may be disrupted and you will not feel the benefits of a deep sleep. Therefore, although there may be an adjustment period cutting down on alcohol should actually help you to feel more rested when you wake up the next morning - this aside from the obvious hangover effect depending on how much you have had to drink!
There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally. Instead drink plenty of water which will also improve your skin which may be dry from the varying temperatures and central heating, etc.
2) SHAKE IT OFF
No, we don't mean suck it up and get over it.
Exercise is a great stress reliever as it will stimulate the production of endorphins, it will also help you shift any excess weight gained over the festive period.
If possible, try to resist the urge to stay in - the exposure to the sun, even on a dull winter day, will help you to get a better nights sleep by helping to regulate your body clock.
If you really can't face heading out then why not turn up the radio and dance wildly around the room with your children?
Daily challenges will be much easier to face with a fresh head.
Avoid the television, loud activities and heavy foods near bedtime and replace them with relaxing music, low-energy activities and reading. Ideally you want to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to establish a regular sleep pattern and also ensure you get seven to eight hours sleep a night.
As mentioned above, avoiding alcohol and getting some exercise will also help improve the quality of your sleep.
2) LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Generally, when we notice that we are feeling down this can lead to a downward spiral of negativity. Although it is definitely worth taking a moment to try and work out why you are feeling the way you do it is important not to dwell unless there is some specific action you can take to resolve the situation.
It is easy to get caught up in the drama of day to day life, but if you consciously make an effort to live in the moment you may feel a lift in your spirits. Taking a moment to appreciate the wonders of nature, the people around you and simply acknowledging that what you are feeling will pass are all methods of reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
Spending quality time with friends or loved ones and making time to really enjoy each other's company will help to lift your spirits.
Laughing is another way to increase endorphins and physical contact will also improve the release of oxytocin - you could snuggle up to your partner or even try a massage.
Why not combine the two and arrange a pamper party for you and some close friends?
If all else fails, it may be worth speaking to your GP as there may be underlying issues causing your symptoms. There are also more serious forms of seasonal depression such as SAD so most importantly do not suffer in silence.
Lastly, take heart that spring is just around the corner 🙂
If you have any suggestions we would love to receive your comments...