Afraid of winter blues?

Afraid of winter blues?

As the days get shorter, there’s a general dip in one’s enthusiasm and energy levels. And the nip in the air makes getting out of bed such an effort. Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla shares the secret to beating the blues.

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet,
Make you want to move your dancing feet!
- Bob Marley

Nothing in the world can beat the energy that comes with waking up to a bright, blue sky and the anticipation of what the day has in store.

However, a bit of grey weather outside is all it takes to make you want to spend the day under the covers, potentially turning you into a grizzly bear for the winters, not feeling like stepping out of home through all that gloom.

Shorter days towards the end of the year tend to bring with them loads of unread files piling up at work, unmade beds at home, yet-to-be done dishes in the sink and a backlog of practically everything, except time.

Sarah, a student, says “just waking up to catch that college bus on a cold morning feels like such a big thing – I’d rather just stay at home!” 

Her mood tends to match nearly everybody else’s as the winters arrive.

The radio seems to play sadder love songs and absenteeism at work seems to be at an all-time high for no apparent reason.

Anchana, a school teacher, talks of how “attention spans in the classroom seem to decrease and you inevitably find at least two heads down on their desks, if you turn to the blackboard for more than a minute.”

Winter is creeping up on us, whether we like it or not, and slowly but surely, it feels like everything is getting us down.

Words may not be able to define that inexplicable feeling that tends to envelop everything when the seasons change, but ‘seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD) sort of sums it up.

It can range from mild blues to severe debilitating depression needing medical intervention.

SAD begins with nothing but that feeling that makes you want to keep sleeping, dragging down your level of energy, possibly leading to an increased appetite and weight gain, eventually leaving you irritable and impatient with people around you.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by The American Psychiatric Association, nearly 10-20 percent of recurrent depression cases follow a seasonal pattern.

Even though the recurrence can be tracked, it tends to follow a pattern with winter/monsoon depression and summer remission.

Living in a tropical country has its pluses, with the relatively lower daylight variation periods and warmer climate.

Although temperatures here are not as extreme as they may be in other parts of the world, shorter daylight hours tend to affect us just the same.

“It occurs due to a combination of factors, which may include a genetic predisposition, some chemicals and hormones, and certain stressful life events,” says Dr Alok Vinod
Kulkarni,consultant neuropsychiatrist, Manas Institute of Mental Health, Hubli.

One of the most under-diagnosed forms of depression in the world today, this
seasonal sadness can last for days, weeks or months on end.

“Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce the symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy,” he adds.

Even though you may feel down in the dumps, too lethargic to make any efforts to feel better, you can actually beat the blues without taking recourse to any drugs, say Marie-Anette Brown and Jo Robinson in their book When Your Body Gets the Blues.

They vouch for the magic of a healthy dose of supplements and light exercise.

Here go some easy, yet effective ways to fade those blues out into lighter shades of pale this winter:

Move your body

Try out something new if your gym routine finds you dragging your feet to it every morning.

A quick high-on-music-dance routine with a Zumba session at the neighbourhood centre is a sure way of getting your groove back on a gloomy day, leaving you with a higher level of energy and more cheerful outlook for the rest of the day.

Yoga (simhasana, matsyasana and virabhadrasana) is an age-old mood elevator.

If working out isn’t your thing, try a simple walk outside in your residential area – there’s nothing in the world that a bit of fresh air can’t cure.

The best news about exercise is that while you do manage to burn a few of those unnecessary calories, you also increase the ‘happy-feeling neurotransmitters’ (serotonin levels) leaving you feeling refreshed and energetic.

Watch what you eat

Binge-eating on carbohydrates does nothing but deplete those serotonin levels you worked so hard at in the gym earlier.

The ‘antidepressant cocktail’ prescribed in When your Body Gets the Blues is a blend of vitamins D, B1, B2, B6, folic acid and selenium – a levity formula, if there ever was one.

Beyond fresh fruits with green, leafy vegetables and whole grain foods are the world-renowned omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and flax seeds.

When you feel like you need that bar of chocolate or pastry in the cafeteria, simply turn away.

The quick spike and drop in blood sugar levels that comfort foods offer adversely affect your mood and energy levels like no other.

Get social

When all you want to do is shut yourself in at home and not talk to anyone, you need to force yourself to get out and meet people, go watch that movie with friends or meet a colleague for a cup of coffee.

Get social; join a book club or a group with similar interests, that meets at regular intervals.

Cut down on the time spent in the company of your phone or tablet and spend more time talking to people – something that involves more human eye-contact.

As fantastic as the social media is, technology is slowly changing the way we interact with each other, and if you’re already in a lonely place, there’s nothing more depressing than that feeling of just two ‘likes’ on a photograph update on a networking site.

No matter how chilly it gets, take a moment to brainstorm about the things that make you feel good; make efforts to tick-off items on that feel-good list this season.

With some proactive attitude you can get through these gloomy days, and soon it’s going to be warm sunshine again!

There is a turn to every season, you know, and a full circle of good weather always comes around.

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