The Winter Blues and Blahs
Someone recently mentioned to me that they felt like this past January has felt like one long, continual Monday. This time of year can be tough for many of us. Even though we live in a very sunny state with mild days and warm temperatures even in the winter months, it is not uncommon for many individuals to experience a lower mood this time of year.
For some people this may warrant a clinical diagnosis by a primary care doctor or mental health professional of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a mood disorder that is characterized by depressive symptoms that occur at the same time each year during the fall and winter months. Symptoms can also include low energy, fatigue, feeling sluggish, intense irritability, having trouble sleeping, a marked increase or decrease in appetite, and a loss of interest in activities that typically bring enjoyment.
Feelings of low mood during the winter months can take us by surprise. Some people describe it as a feeling of “the veil coming down.” Life can start to feel very grey. For other people, they might experience symptoms of irritability or pervasive negativity. If feelings of hopelessness crop up, it’s very important to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.
For those of us who struggle with a lower mood during the colder months, or just an overall sense of lower motivation and general unease, there are some things that can definitely help:
Light therapy (also called phototherapy) is considered a first-line treatment for low mood that starts in the fall months. It involves purchasing a special light box that mimics the light found in nature, and sitting in front of it for an hour upon waking in the morning. The light positively supports chemicals in our brain that our linked to positive mood.
Check in With Your Doctor
Your doctor can run tests to rule out whether or not the pervasive low mood is linked to an issue with your thyroid, and can also check your Vitamin D levels. Contrary to popular belief, Vitamin D levels can even be low for those of us in sunny Colorado.
You don’t need to blow it out everyday at a Crossfit class to get the benefits out of exercise. Moderate and gentle exercise will do. Moderate exercise has consistently been shown to improve the symptoms of low mood.
Herbs and Supplements
A licensed herbalist and acupuncturist can give you some great suggestions for supplements as well as herbal formulas that will support mood, energy levels, and balanced sleep.
Support the Mind-Body Connection and Manage Stress
Deep breathing and gentle yoga can help you get back into your body and lift your mood. Take downtime for yourself. Try to keep some space in your schedule. Recognize that this is the darkest and coldest time of the year and respect your need for quietude and deep rest.
Get A Course of Acupuncture Treatments
Weekly acupuncture treatments over the course of 8 to 12 weeks can not only help you make this time of year more manageable, it can dramatically improve your overall sense of well-being, boost your energy levels, improve your sleep, and lift your mood. Consistency is key in conjunction with lifestyle support.