With summer officially out of sight and out of mind, and Christmas seeming like a tiny speck on the horizon, it’s no wonder that so many of us are experiencing a change of mood and energy levels with the changing seasons. In fact, Anxiety UK and other mental health charities report increased helpline calls over the winter (Netdoctor, 2018).
We can’t blame them either, the end of summer suddenly brings around that horrid, gnawing, borderline “depressing” feeling. In a matter of days, the sun starts setting earlier by the minute, what was once green is now yellow, greying and played out, and the house is empty of kids, not to mention the mountain of work to be miraculously completed before Christmas.
If you have felt this way at some point in your life, or you are feeling it for the first time this autumn, know that you are by far not alone in this. Feeling down or unmotivated is completely normal all year round, however, in this particularly downing time, ourFINA team has gathered their top 10 tips to beat the blues this season.
DITCH THE ATTITUDE
First and foremost, it all starts with the mind and the kind of approach you take to the coming of the winter months is absolutely crucial. Though dark, cold and miserable, think of this season as a transition to the more beautiful days of spring and summer. Furthermore, if you find yourself lacking motivation to do just about anything and staying at home most days, find something to look forward to each week and each month, and all of a sudden the days pass faster and instead of just “getting through” each day, you actually start enjoying the things this season has to offer. Though we’re no London guide, here at Lift Up, we’re excited for everything the winter season brings including the dazzling Christmas decorations that will light up the city in just a few weeks, Winter Wonderland and all of its magic and of course, Christmas holidays.
RISE & SHINE
As the days get shorter and darker, the lack of sunlights can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), leaving you feeling tired and down. According to neuroscientist Professor Russell Foster, a crucial method to ward this off is to get outside for at least 30 minutes between 6 am and 10 am, when the daylight is strongest. “Research shows that exposure to early morning light can help reset our internal body clock” and hence fight the SAD-ness.
SORT OUT OUR SLEEP
Though sleep is something we all feel we lack all year round, waking up exhausted and drained is more common in the coming winter months. Longer hours of darkness cause increased levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone), making you feel sleepy in the day but restless during the night.
However, instead of “overriding our natural sleep/wake system” (Mitchell, 2017), by drinking caffeine in the morning and alcohol at night, stick to a normalised and consistent routine of going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Instead of alcohol, which, though puts up to sleep faster, can actually result in shorter and more disturbed sleep, try natural herbal remedies such as valerian root, CBD oils or even try drinking some chamomile tea before bed.
GET YOUR SWEAT ON
After smashing it in the gym to get your perfect summer body, the cold weather and dark days are probably preventing you from working out as much, if at all. However, getting your sweat on is important, as research shows that it can boost your mood during winter seasons as well as having a myriad of other benefits for the health, body, skin and mind.
To ensure you're still working on your fitness even when the weather isn't inspiring you, try three different exercises over the three months of autumn to avoid fitness fatigue.“Joining a group sport is a good way to shake up your routine,” (Mitchell, 2017) as well as more engaging means of working out, such as an upbeat spin class, dancing aerobics or even dance classes.
VITAMIN D & IRON
Direct sunlight is the body’s main source of vitamin D, and when levels are depleted in the autumn/winter months, some experts think it can increase the risk of SAD. It is therefore beneficial not only for the body but for your mental health too to get as much sunshine as you can during these months, and if you don’t have such an opportunity, try vitamin D supplements such as the Vitamin D Softgells from Myvitamins (£8.99).
Furthermore, during the winter months, you could be suffering from a lack of iron - “the world’s most common nutritional deficiency” (Jones, 2012). People with such deficiency may feel exhausted more often, pale and find it hard to concentrate. Ideally, women should have two servings of iron-rich food every day, the best sources of iron being read meat, fish, eggs, bread, fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables and dried fruit.
SET A GOAL IN YOUR MIND
Though Christmas lights are already starting to appear on the streets of London, Christmas still feels so far away and it can be hard to feel motivated during autumn.To combat this, psychologist Avy Joseph recommends starting by achieving something small such as finally reading that book you’ve wanted to for ages. After that, try setting up bigger and more substantial goal. This could be work related or in the spirit of keeping a heathy mind and body, could be something like completing at least one yoga class a week or getting that driver’s licence ready for a summer road trip - let your imagination run wild and be consistent with your goals and progress - it will add a sense of fulfilment to your otherwise dark days.
IT STARTS WITH THE GUT
It is now well established that your mood can have an effect on the gut. Research is also now showing that our gut bacteria may substantially influence our mood, via the gut-brain-axis (Braye, 2018). In addition, with 70% of the immune system residing in the gut, our gut bacteria also act as our first line of defence against harmful viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.Taking a good quality daily live bacteria supplement, such as the Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation , is a great strategy to support healthy digestion, mood and immune function.
Though it can be hard to motivate yourself to brave the cold and the winds of the UK, there is growing and supported evidence to suggest that exposure to the natural environments and green spaces has profound benefits associated with mental health. Getting out in nature has shown a reduction in stress levels throughout the year as well as a potential reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms. If you live in city, perhaps you could take a few minutes to walk around a park in the morning, or during a lunch break.
DON'T NEGLECT COMPANY
Countless studies show that having a good network of friends can ward off depression (Jones, 2012), however, at this time of year it’s easier to binge watch your favourite show in Netflix 100 times. We’ll tell you this how it is: make it your absolute mission to go out at least once a week. This doesn’t mean you need to dress up and go out every day, an evening watching a feel-good movie or having a good gossip over a home-cooked meal is a guaranteed way to make you feel better about yourself and also feed of the energy of your friends. Do not isolate yourself during this season.
What many of us experience during this season is what psychologists at the University of Granada in Spain have dubbed ‘post-holiday syndrome’ – feeling tired, fed-up and unmotivated after our summer break. However, more often than not, it’s not the trip itself that puts a smile of your face, it turns out that planning a holiday is just as important, with psychologists suggesting that just looking forward to your break is enough to lift your mood. So, ladies and gents, get planning on your next getaway, no matter how big or small, we are all getting through this season together in style.