It’s no secret that the days are shortening as we enter the last portions of the year. The diminishing light will become exaggerated this weekend as we all set the clocks back and people start driving home from work in the dark at 5 pm. For some, these seasonal changes matter little. Others find this time of year very difficult to navigate. Weather and light changes coupled with the added stress or emotional memories of the holidays can trigger some winter blues. Thankfully there are actions you can take to arm yourself to stay happy and healthy.
Get Moving and Stay Moving. Exercise, sweat, and increased heart rate is very important to fend off seasonal depression. Keep your routine through the season, even when it seems difficult to drive to the gym after work when it’s already dark out. Good exercise will contribute to good quality sleep – another big hitter when it comes to depression.
Get Into Full Spectrum Light As Early As Possible In the Morning. Even if it’s a cloudy day, the rays of the sun are still coming through those clouds. If you can get out into the light and expose a little skin and let your eyes see the light, it can help your body’s natural rhythms for better sleep and better mood.
Be Kind to Yourself and Patient with Others. Try not to let the hustle and bustle of the season be in charge of your mood and attitude. If the parking lot is in gridlock, and the line is long at the grocery store, take the extra time to say a prayer, or think about all you have to be thankful for. The alternative is letting the situation absorb your energy and derail your day. It is NOT WORTH IT! Be a master over these situations, in the language of my husband, use your jedi mind tricks and be the calm one in the midst of the storm. Believe me, you will win. Smile and be kind to the people checking you out in the stores, you had to deal with the line for 10 minutes, they may be at the end of an 8 hour shift. A little kindness goes a long way. Take the lead in showing honor, kindness, and forgiveness to one another.
READY TO TALK ABOUT FOOD?
Take time to eat a balanced breakfast. Eat within an hour of waking. Choose a combination of protein. complex carbohydrates and healthy fats (e.g. egg scramble with veggies and a piece of whole grain toast).
Eat every 2-3 hours. Keep blood sugar stable and ward off hypoglycemia by eating a small meal or healthy snack regularly throughout the day. Good snacks include nuts, seeds, yogurt, hummus with veggies and apples with almond butter, any type of fruit with a little protein. Get creative, or eat left overs, just keep eating.
Limit added sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. These substances can contribute to mood swings, anxiety and sleep disturbances (which can also cause symptoms similar to depression). Read the ingredient list on processed foods and avoid refined sugar. Limit alcohol, and try catching a quick walk around the office to get your body moving and change your mood before reaching for another cup of coffee.
Eat those greens. These foods are high in B vitamins, which are energy-promoting nutrients and co-factors in various neurological functions. So don't forget to eat your greens! Try spinach, chard, kale and collard greens.
Eat healthy fats. Research suggests that omega-3s can help combat depression, and we know that they cool down inflammation in the body. Go for the oily fish, like salmon, halibut and mackerel. Foods like nuts, avocado and seeds.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
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