Winter is synonymous with hot coffee, chilly air and comfortable cosy nights. But for a lot of us, it brings persistent periods of low moods and irritability. This is called seasonal affective disorder and is commonly known as ‘winter depression’.
The symptoms usually begin in autumn when the days start getting shorter and peak during December- February. The condition improves during summer and spring. This pattern is repeated for prolonged years among some people and can seriously hamper their quality of life and mental well-being.
Here are some symptoms of winter blues:
* Disinterest and loss of pleasure in everyday activities
* Prolonged periods of depression and low mood
* Feeling guilty, despair and worthlessness
* Being lethargic and sleepy during daytime
* Weight gain and craving for carbohydrates
It is thought that an imbalance in melatonin and serotonin production due to low exposure to daylight is responsible for the condition. Experts also agree that circadian rhythm disturbances can also aggravate the problem.
What you can do
Following are some lifestyle tips that you can adopt to beat these blues that come with winter:
1. Stay active
Exercise and physical activity release feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in the brain. These help in regulating the hormonal imbalance that can disrupt circadian rhythm.
2. Go outside
Sunlight is a scarce resource during winter. Low exposure to blue wavelength of daily light can disrupt normal bodily patterns. Go outdoors as much as you can, especially during midday and on brighter days, but do wear protective clothing.
3. Eat healthy
Follow a balanced and healthy diet. The more colourful you make your plate, the more healthy is your meal. Go for fruits and vegetables that have high fibre. Avoid fried foods and those high on carbohydrate content as they can make you feel bloated and lazy, further exacerbating the winter depression symptoms.
4. Stick to a schedule
Winter months can make it difficult to get out of bed and stay active, but this can wreak havoc on your daily schedule. Do not change your daily routine just because it is a little chilly outside. If you used to do yoga every morning, continue doing it. Any abrupt cessation in daily activities can disrupt your body cycle.
5. Opt for lean proteins
Lean proteins such as those found in salmon and flaxseed are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are also rich in amino acids and low in saturated fat content. They are high energy giving sources that can help fight fatigue.
6. Make your surroundings brighter
Your body craves more daylight in winter. Allow daylight to enter your home as much as possible. Open drapes and curtains. Sit closer to windows and doors to get that extra dose of sunshine.
The above tips and tricks should equip you well to fight winter blues. However, if your symptoms do not improve or worsen over time; it is better you approach a general physician.
(Cynthia War is a psychologist at Grow Fit, a Banglore-based health app)
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