Human hibernation mode - how to honor and conquer it

 

January 8, 2020 | View PDF

Vicky Dorvee

We're spoiled in our part of the world. You know that braggadocious maxim about Coloradoans getting 250+ days of sun every year. Add in the region's vast amount of natural beauty and the multitude of ways to enjoy it and there's no wonder we're all high on life here. But, when winter comes a-knockin' with shorter days, overcast skies, snow and ice, the contrast to how we feel during the rest of the year can make life feel tougher for a while.

From early fall until spring arrives, many of us notice we're running a little low ebb, have cravings for sweets, and wish we could linger longer in the lounging position. There's often a low simmer of sadness or irksome irritability combined with bouts of loneliness.

Psychology Today estimates 10 million Americans deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines as major depression for at least two consecutive years during specific seasons.

Another 2 million people, Psychology Today reports, may experience symptoms on the milder end of the spectrum, but enough to interfere with everyday life. The American Psychiatric Association states that January and February are the worst months for seasonally induced symptoms. Symptoms often start in teenage years and women are four times more likely to feel the cyclical changes than men.


Less natural light hampers the body's ability to regulate melatonin and serotonin, directly impacting moods.The preponderance of dark and cold jumble our internal biological clock which is jarring.

Not enough sunlight means vitamin D production, which is stimulated by ultraviolet rays, can be in short supply. Aside from this nutrient strengthening bones and tissues, it also helps support our brain, immune, and nervous systems. Low levels makes it difficult to sleep well, increases inflammation, and causes mood swings.

Don't struggle with concerning seasonal symptoms on your own. Before getting overwhelmed, seek the advice of a health expert.There are treatments to bring you back to a stable and content state until the advent of spring.

For those who feel a shift that's mostly manageable, but still not comfortable, here's a list of suggestions that might kindle an upswing in your mood and help you weather the winter blues.

Find comfort at home

Instead of fighting it, see this as the season that allows you to embrace a slower pace and enjoy time at home.

Light up the fireplace, light up your rooms, and use a therapy lamp.

Tune into a non-commercial music app or go old school with a turntable.

Grab a book or magazine from that growing stack.

Practice transcendental meditation which releases melatonin and serotonin.

Start a journal of your wishes, emotions, and daily activities.

Call a friend or family member to vent, laugh, and get caught up.

Take vitamin D. Consult your doctor for dosage recommendations.

Eat well and don't eat more. Choose slow metabolizing foods like broccoli, zucchini, and lentils which maintain blood sugar levels. Dark chocolate is good for you, candy not so much.

Play boardgames, solitaire, and games with virtual friends. Put together puzzles and start a hobby.

Follow your curiosity by discovering your ancestors, exploring science, researching a period of time or a famous person you've wanted to learn about.

Organize and clean out spaces in your home.

Plan and throw a party, just because.

Try an online or on demand yoga class.

Binge watch television series and comedy movies while noshing on a bowl of popcorn.

Spoil yourself by taking a bath infused with aromatherapy products that contain lemon, rose, or ylang ylang.

Get out and about

Move your body because it releases chemicals that will naturally elevate your mood. Before going outside, dress appropriately with layers and ice traction accessories like Yaktrax and walking poles. It might seem like a hassle at first, but the outcome of getting out for a stroll is always worth the effort and you'll end up feeling impervious and strong. Activities inside include bowling, swimming, racquetball, billiards, an indoor trampoline, bouldering or climbing, and pumping up with weight lifting. Any time you get the chance to dance, don't question it, just do it.


Get outside at least a couple of times each day to take in the natural light and fresh air.

Ugh, it's dark after work - so head to the gym for a group class. There are the added benefits of social interaction, motivation, and inspiration.

Entertain yourself at the movie theater or a museum, a live performance or a planetarium show.

Volunteer to serve a meal, be on the other end of the phone for those in need, shovel someone's driveway or spend time at animal adoption organizations.

Go on a trip, even for a couple of days, or use this down time to plan your next big getaway.

Join a creative class like ceramics, painting or mastering a musical instrument.

Find your tribe, maybe a choir or a ukulele club.

Cheer up by wearing fun, bright colored clothing.

Spoil yourself some more with a meal out, a massage, facial, new hairdo, or a flowering plant where you'll see it most often.

Take heart because we're now on the upswing with daylight hours and it's only 70 some more days until spring begins on March 19.

Vicky Dorvee

 

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