Man I’m glad winter is about over!!! For the last 2 months I have been in a weird funk and didn’t know what was going on. My energy was super low, I had no desire to exercise and keeping my nutrition in check was virtually impossible. Then one day, probably just around March 21st, I woke up out of this 2 month fog and everything was good again. I can remember how I felt that day. I had woken up and didn’t feel like I needed caffeine to function. I opened the blinds and the sun was beating in on me. My eyes didn’t feel half glazed over. Things in all honesty, just seemed clearer. I had a chiropractor appointment that morning and when I opened the garage door it wasn’t freezing. Walking out into the sunshine and the warm air felt incredible. Everything about me made me feel like a different person. The whole day went incredible. I remember taking moments to breathe a little deeper, I was incredibly productive all day long and I had a ton of control when it came to eating. No sugar cravings and only really ate when I was physically hungry.
I sat down that evening and rated my day like I always do. I accomplished all the things I set out to do for the first time in 2 months. The last day came out to be an A rating which was the highest I had rated a day since January 26th. The 2nd highest day was a B in the last 2 months. I pulled out my journals from a last winter and the winter before and read through Feb and March. I went through these same feelings the last couple years at this time of year. So it’s more than just a funk I’ve been going through, it’s a yearly funk that I get from the cold winter days and I need to start preparing for this.
Thinking about it in more detail I most likely have a slight case of SAD. Which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m pretty familiar with this disorder as a girl I dated for a few years had a pretty severe case of it. I don’t think I ever associated with what I was dealing with this as I’ve built so many things into my life to be productive and build in natural energy that even when I’m not performing optimally for myself, I’m still performing more optimally than most people. Also, after seeing my previous girlfriend deal with her the severe side of this disorder I knew I didn’t have anything that bad so I just brushed it off.
This I think is a good topic however to talk about a little bit especially since we do live in a place that can have relatively harsh winters. SAD is a type of depression that is onset but seasonal changes, usually winter based. Some of these symptoms are having low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, cravings carbs and social withdrawal. I think some of these things naturally come with just winter in general. So to say everyone in the cold weather areas has this might be insulting with people who have been diagnosed with the actual disorder but this doesn’t mean we can’t learn from things that help them and can be entered in our lives.
So if you’re someone who had a rough winter or has dealt with any of the above symptoms it might be worth putting some of these tips into your winter routine to help prevent this. I’ll try to repost this before next winter as a good reminder.
TIP #1: Increase Vitamin D intake
I supplement with Vitamin D all year long. I have for many years now. The reason I do this is because I know I don’t go out in the sun often enough to get proper uptake of Vitamin D. You need 15min of sun exposure to your face and arms from 11a-1p during the winter months in Chicago to absorb enough Vitamin D each day. I know I don’t get that much even possibly in the summer time.
I normally supplement with 1000 IU’s of Vitamin D for year round. Next winter I’m going to increase this to 5000 IU’s. Based on the research that’s a safe amount for the Chicago area and is recommended from November through March.
TIP #2: Be active every day and workout in groups
I caught myself a lot only being active on workout days. On my 2-3 rest days I’d not do much physically. During this time of year it might be better to force myself to workout 6 days a week and try to workout in group settings instead of by myself. Summer is ok for me to workout by myself as I’m very motivated but in winter I need to use the energy of a group better. In the summer I also catch myself being active in some way each day which helps restore energy quickly. So forcing activity is something I have to do in the winter.
TIP #3: Plan things to do each weekend with people
I have a desire to just crawl in my shell each winter. I’m a naturally introverted person and winter brings that out in me even more. If it wasn’t for the fact I see people at the gym each day I’d probably go almost all winter without contacting other people. So next winter I need to plan a weekend plan to make sure I interact with others on a more social setting. It doesn’t have to be the whole weekend but 2 hours of conversation can help prevent depression.
TIP #4: Concentrate on proper amount of sleep
Forcing bed times on weekends and concentrating on getting 8-9 hours a sleep needs to be a must in the winter. I feel drained during the day but when it’s bedtime I have no desire to sleep. Forcing bed times and focusing on proper sleep can help overcome these. Sticking to proper sleep habits and routines. I also have a tendency to short myself sleep in the winter because of binging on TV shows. So I making sure I don’t watch after a certain hour would help a ton.
TIP 5#: Light lamps and just brighter lighting in general
For most people that have SAD, using heat and bring light lamps helps out a lot. I noticed that the lights I have in my house are few and far between as well as are soft lights. I need to change them to bright lights and put a few more in the house and have them on. I have always been the type that turns off all lights when not needed but it might be a good practice to create the artificial light during the day time. I’ve never used a heat lamp but might put one by my computer next year.
Those are my five tips I dove into that I think could help with the Dark Days of Winter. I personally need to stop that 2 month fog, especially when it’s not long after the holiday hustle. This time of year can cause a lot of weight gain and makes it hard to overcome the other 6 months of the year. I’d love any comments on if anyone else struggles during this time of year and any tips they might have on how they deal with it!