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People dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD); the medical version of the winter blues aren’t the only ones that struggle with the short, gray days, grim weather, and the overall gloom of the winter season.
Reduced exposure to sunlight can significantly affect your circadian rhythm (the body’s biological clock regulating hormone production and even brain wave activity). For older people and for individuals with conditions like Raynaud’s (a condition that causes extreme sensitivity to the cold), the winter blues can be much worse.
Few of us are big fans of the cold weather season, but for those of you that spend much of the winter in the dumps, here are some ways you can improve your mood to maintain your mental health until spring returns.
What are the Signs that You Have the Winter Blues?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are nine symptoms associated with SAD that we should look out for. If you’re experiencing any one of these – then you might have a serious case of the winter blues and should take steps to restore a positive outlook and improve your mood.
The symptoms of SAD are:
- Changes in either appetite (particularly a craving for foods high in
carbohydrates) or weight
- Persistent sluggishness or agitation
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Your limbs feel heavy or tired
- Unusual thoughts of suicide
- Remaining depressed most of the day for two weeks or longer
- A sensation of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Lack of interest in activities that you enjoyed before
Simply exposing yourself to sunlight will stimulate the brain to release of serotonin – one of the most important hormones to improve your mood. The dark days of winter can cause your serotonin levels to dive; by getting outside as much as possible when the sun is out, you can raise your serotonin levels to fight the blues. Even half an hour per day can make a huge difference. Try eating lunch or getting your exercise outdoors to get as much daylight as possible to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm and balance your mood.
Change Your Diet
Winter frequently leaves many of us craving starchy foods and sweets and, while these items can be an enjoyable part of our diet, to maintain health, we need to strike a balance.
Rather than run to the snack machine when you need a quick pick-me-up; choose foods like walnuts, boiled eggs, and cheese; they can all help the body to secrete more serotonin, which will lift your mood.
Our diet can also play a significant role in sleep quality. Poor sleep can exacerbate the winter blues – so it’s best to avoid eating a heavy meal within an hour or two before bedtime. If you’re the type who often wakes up in the night feeling peckish; then try eating a small, protein-rich snack before bed.
Wind Down Before Bed
Worry about work or family life and being constantly connected to email and social media can have a negative impact your sleep quality – ruining your mood in the morning. Although it’s tempting to take your mobile device or laptop to bed with you, make sure you give the brain an opportunity to switch off as you prepare for bed for the best possible night’s sleep.
A good idea is to stay away from your social media accounts and email for at least an hour and a half before turning in. Try reading a book (catching up on the news may not be very relaxing), listening to soothing music or just have a warm bath. By establishing a regular wind-down routine, you can reduce any feelings of anxiety and relax your mind; ensuring that you get the best possible night’s sleep to be re-energized for the next day.
Try Napping to Beat Fatigue and Improve Your Mood
Lethargy during the day is a typical symptom of SAD. Starting a napping routine over the winter is a fantastic way to combat this. Ideally, your naps should last between 10 and 20 minutes and be scheduled for when you feel most sleepy during the day or merely find yourself losing your concentration. Many of us feel a natural decline in energy levels around mid-afternoon – but whenever you start to feel tired or unfocused is the best time.
Find or Create Something You Can Look Forward to
The depths of winter are a perfect time to plan something you can look forward to.
Studies have shown that people who travel can get a much greater boost in their mood from anticipating the trip than from the journey itself. Even if you must wait until spring or summer arrives to take your trip, you can still get a mood boost that lasts through the winter just from the anticipation.
But, do you have to travel to create this mood-elevating anticipation?
No! Use the cold months to plan any experience you can look forward to. Whether it’s working on the garden, a first picnic or beach trip, or taking a hike on your favorite path. It’s the anticipation that has the effect, not what you’re anticipating.
Make the Most of Indoor Time
Inclement weather and frigid temperatures will inevitably keep you stuck indoors – sometimes for days at a time. Make the most of it!
Are there any home improvements or repairs that you’ve meant to get to? Get the materials you’ll need together in advance so when the winter weather keeps you stuck inside; you can avoid going stir crazy. Instead of retreating to the couch, you’ll have a productive and engaging activity to occupy the day.
If you share your home with friends or family – why not keep a collection of board games and share some quality time interacting with each other rather than an electronic device.
Learn Something New
Use the time you’re stuck indoors to new a new skill!
Have you always intended to learn a musical instrument? Maybe you’ve always wished to learn how to write software applications? Take advantage of the slower-paced winter months to pick up a new skill you can show off come spring and summer. The feeling of accomplishment doing so can offer, will go far to improve your mood and your self-image.
Nutrisystem states that “All of the programs meet, and are often below, the USDA’s recommended daily intake of 2300 mg sodium or less for the general population”. This varies depending on which diet plan you are on, and what foods you add to your diet along with Nutrsystem. The average amount of sodium in the American diet is around 4,000 mg and sometimes much higher.
However, if an individual would like to limit their intake to 1500 mg, they can contact the Nutrisystem Support on their website.
Ergonomics is the science of adapting the workstation to fit within the capabilities and limitations of the worker. In other words, changing things in an environment to make a worker more comfortable.
The purpose of workplace ergonomics is to create an environment that fits you, to allow maximum comfort for increased productivity and efficiency.
An ergonomically correct workstation can greatly reduce the amount of fatigue and discomfort felt from sitting in an office all day. Continued exposure to discomfort and poor mechanics can result in debilitating conditions. Some of the more common ones are carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis. Here a few guidelines to things that you can do to increase your comfort in an office setting.
5 Office Ergonomic Tips
Arms rests? Yeah that’s what I said. Armrests allow you to rest the weight of your arms on them instead of resting the weight on your shoulders and neck. This can help you not hunch over, as well as not strain your Trapezius Muscles. If your arms are not supported, your neck will feel very tight after work from being stretched out all day.
So this one is obvious but one of the main complaints of sitting in an office is lower back pain. Having a chair that does not support good posture can lead to:
- Hunching– Hanging your head out over your lap instead of your shoulders
- Slouching – Having your hips forward on the chair more so your shoulders rest on the back of the chair
- Sl-unching – So I made this one up, but it’s when you are leaning forward and also sitting forward on your chair. Almost hanging over you keyboard.
To properly sit, you will need to have your feet on the floor, not dangling. This prevents the weight of your body resting on your buttocks or back of legs fully. Weight distribution is key here. Hips should be pushed back against the back of the chair, and with your arms bent about 90 degrees while resting on the arm rests. Body angle should be slighting reclined. Not straight up and down.
If you are not used to sitting correctly, your body may have to adjust. The first few times you sit up straight, your body will act like it wants to slouch. This will pass and soon you will be comfortably typing and leaving work less sore.
Monitor Should Be Eye Level
Part of the reason you are slouching and feeling uncomfortable is because you are looking down on your monitor. Okay so that’s an assumption, but are you? You should be looked straight ahead at the top of your monitor. With the keyboard directly in line, so you don’t have to turn your head. Make sure the monitor is at least an arm’s length away too. Having it too close will cause strain on the eyes.
If your job requires you to be on the phone for a majority of the day, make sure you aren’t holding the phone with your shoulder. This can cause unnecessary cramping due to being in a weird position for an extended period of time. A headset can normally be set up by your IT department if you ask nicely enough.
So this one isn’t really, ergonomic, but you can avoid fatigue by taking good care of your body. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of exercise, take stretch breaks and avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Snacking all day is a great way to put on weight, and drinking 5 cups of coffee is a fantastic way to get addicted to caffeine.
Your desk should be a comfortable place in order to produce good work. If your office has the ability, consider having an ergonomics professional come and assess each individual’s needs. If your office can’t justify that, then these things above will help. Hopefully you can find a comfortable way to sit all day. Keep looking to find what works for you.
BistroMD does deliver.
They ship via FedEx and should arrive 6 business days after the order is placed. They ship to all 50 states. If you live in Alaska, delivery is only available to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Eagle River.