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The Winter Blues, Feeling a little blue?

Feeling a little blue? Once the days start getting shorter, it is especially important to start paying more attention to your moods. Due to the lack of sunlight, the pineal gland produces more melatonin, the hormone which makes us feel drowsy. Melatonin is constantly being regulated according to how much sunlight we are being exposed to. Melatonin comes from the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which plays a key role in such body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire.

It is common for most people to be impacted with mild symptoms occasionally. Most people will admit there are days when staying home and bummin’ out in their PJ’s sounds a heck of a lot better than going on a call.

However, if you start struggling with not wanting to get of bed, loss of interest in

hobbies, isolating from friends and loved ones, appetite changes, feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, wanting to sleep most of the day or having suicidal thoughts or ideations, you could be experiencing something more serious called Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD. It is believed that as much as 20% of the population could have a mild version of SAD.

Because SAD is mostly a biophysical response to our environment, the best way to combat the symptoms are with the same type of approach. Serotonin is mostly found in our gut. So eating a healthy diet is one of the best and most effective prescriptions you can take to heal your body. Instead of spending a lot of money on doctor bills, devote some to nutrition.

Remember, before we had expensive pharmaceuticals, all we had were food, minerals and herbs to heal us. This is not advice to stop taking any of your medications, of course.

Even making little tweaks to your diet will improve your mood and overall health and wellbeing. Some of my tips include:

· Eating protein within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning which will help with hunger throughout the day. This will help with carb cravings which we tend to have more of during the winter months.

· Eating protein with everything you eat; this keeps your body temperature higher and helps with metabolism.

· Eating turkey about 30 minutes before bed due to the tryptophan, the enzyme

that makes you feel sleepy. It might help you sleep better. Also, Serotonin is

made from tryptophan. When it comes to protein, remember about 30 grams/

meal is usually enough depending on your overall health and wellness goals and

your body weight. A person’s diet should be mostly vegetables.

Exercise is also another important factor to fight the winter blues. Most people know the benefits of working out. Doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is shown to be most effective for combating mental health concerns. But always consult your doctor before starting any rigorous workout plan. HIIT releases the most endorphins, gives confidence and makes us feel stronger. Thirty minutes of HIIT and you will see!

Some other random ways to boost your endorphins are eating spicy food; using aroma therapy with scents like lavender or lemongrass; enjoying the scent of a candle that reminds you of something nostalgic like your grandmother’s cookies or the scent of pine trees; listening to upbeat music; eating dark chocolate; or having more intimacy with your partner.

Make sure your Vitamin D levels are where they should be. Vitamin D has been shown to help regulate mood and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Most people who live in the Midwest are deficient. You can easily get your levels checked by scheduling a blood test with your MD. If you feel your levels are off, Vitamin D is sold over the counter. As with all supplements, read the labels and make sure you are getting a good product. Try not to buy something with a bunch of fillers in it. And always take supplements as directed unless your doctor prescribes it otherwise.

There are SAD lights you can purchase that will give you the same rays as the sun to help boost your Vitamin D levels. You can purchase them online or at most big box stores around $30 without a prescription. Of course, for people who love winter, getting their Vitamin D the

natural way -- being outside and having their skin exposed to the sun -- is always best. Thankfully, about ten to fifteen minutes will suffice for baring yourself to Mother Nature.

It goes without saying, but make sure you are getting enough sleep. Even though you may be feeling more tired and sluggish it doesn’t mean you are getting more sleep. Sleep is essential for mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep. It is best to have a normal sleep schedule and stop using all screens such as phones, computers and TVs about an hour before bed. If you struggle with the inability to shut your mind off at night, try meditating or try using white noise. You can also try searching for sounds or music that contain delta brain waves, the same brain waves we have when we are falling asleep. You can also try taking a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature.

And last but not least, make sure you have some fun! Even if you feel like hibernating during the winter, there are plenty of winter activities. Winter is not going anywhere, you can expect it every year. So learning to find something you can actually look forward to during the season of dormancy will definitely help perk you up. Volunteering your time to a worthy cause or finding a new hobby or interest are easy ways to fill your calendar and keep your spirits high. And don’t forget about your friends. Nurture the relationships that are dear to you! Have you ever thought about starting a card club? Connection to others make us feel valued and

appreciated, so pick up the phone when you start feeling down.

Visit our blog for more ideas and tips.

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