This month, I have been hearing a lot from clients, friends, etc. that they have a case of the "blahs". They feel that their mood has not been the greatest, they are eating more than usual, they are tired all of the time and are just not feeling motivated. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Why is this happening? Why do people tend to feel it at this time of year? Why is appetite affected? What can you do about it? These are all questions that I will talk about but before I do I just want to remind everyone that I am not a doctor and if you are experiencing changes to your mood that are too hard for you to cope with, please make an appointment to see your doctor. The things I will be talking about here do NOT replace medical care and I will not be talking about antidepressants or other medications.
Changes in mood are very common at this time of year and can be Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD). SAD symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Some of these symptoms include:
Tiredness or low energy
Problems getting along with other people
Hypersensitivity to rejection
Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
Appetite changes, especially craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Researchers still cannot pinpoint the cause of SAD but most theories point to less sunlight as the problem. It is suggested that this change in light exposure can change your internal clock which can affect your sleep, mood, appetite, etc. This decrease in light also reduces serotonin levels and vitamin D levels. What does all this mean and what can we do about it????
Let's tackle the serotonin first. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical that helps regulate mood) that is responsible for helping us feel content, calm and relaxed. When it is low, it makes sense then that we lack motivation and feel low. Low serotonin can also explain why we may crave more foods that are high in carbohydrates. These foods can actually modestly raise our serotonin levels.This is partly why we actually can feel happier after eating these foods (short term). Remember the key is moderation though! It will not solve anything if a person ends up overeating or binging on these foods.....they will feel worse about themselves and not at all better!
Now for vitamin D.....we get vitamin D from the sun. It goes without saying then that if we are getting less sun, we are also getting less vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium which is good for our bones and teeth. Vitamin D has also been shown to help improve mood. Where can we get vitamin D other than the sun? Cow's milk has vitamin D added to it, and some fish and egg yolks naturally contain vitamin D.
So what does all this mean? Here are my key recommendations:
1. Always listen to your body. If you are craving a food, allow yourself to have it in moderation. If you are tired, try making sure you are getting enough sleep. Routine is best here. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same times every day to keep your body on a regular schedule. Do the same with your eating. Have your meals and snacks around the same times. Make sure you are having food from all of the food groups to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need. If you feel like you are overeating certain foods, come up with ways to portion them out and distract yourself from going back for more. For example, if you love sweet treats but find it hard to stop eating them, try not having chocolate in the house and instead meet a friend for a snack later on. This way, you are being social, having one portion and not allowing yourself to overdo it!
2. Take a vitamin D supplement. Those of you who know me, know that I'm not a big fan of recommending supplements because I prefer people get everything that they need from the food that they eat. For vitamin D, however, it's hard to get as much as we need. There are a ton of studies out there suggesting what optimal levels of vitamin D are. Most doctors will recommend between 1000-2000 I.U. per day. I personally take 4000 I.U. per day. Do NOT go above this. Also make sure you are having your dairy products, fish and egg yolks.
3. Take time for yourself every day to do things that you enjoy. The weather may be getting colder but that doesn't mean we need to go into hibernation. Find hobbies that you love to do, watch your favourite tv show, pamper yourself, etc. Self care is key to helping us feel better. One thing that I was just introduced to that I'm loving is Pinterest. It is a great way of surrounding yourself with all things you love. Check out my boards (birds, muppets, fashion, needlepoint, etc..). These things always make me happy! Make your own boards of things that make you happy! Start and end each day with looking through them. Anyone is welcome to follow me on Pinterest and I may just follow you back since you all make me happy!!! :)
Whatever you choose to do, remember that spring and summer are just around the corner and these winter blahs will go away!!! Feel free to comment and share other ideas or ask questions that I may not have answered! I hope you are all doing well!!!