CAMDENTON, Mo. — Call it what you will, but many of us start to feel restless and even a bit anxious this time of year. As the temperatures tease us with drastic swings, many of us are forced to spend extended time indoors where we tend to be less active. This sedentary pattern makes us feel sluggish and tired, thus creating a cycle that can affect our interest in activities and our overall mood. According to the National Sleep Foundation, shorter days in the wintertime actually causes our bodies to produce more melatonin, which makes us sleepier. Our eating habits also follow the season. In colder months, we tend to eat heartier, warmer meals, which can spike glucose levels and contribute to our sinking mood and low energy level.
Here are six ways to help you move from blah to hoorah!
- Get active. The last thing you may feel like doing when you are tired is exercising. However, research shows that physical activity boosts energy levels and enhances mood. Exercise also improves cardiovascular function and strengthens muscles.
- Eat healthy. Cold weather and an abundance of holiday foods may lead to increase consumption of sweets and starches. Remember to include low-fat protein, which does not raise your blood sugar, leaving you feeling more satisfied, less irritable and tired than simple carbohydrates and sugars. Some people may benefit by eating smaller meals more frequently during the day. Watch your portion sizes as well to avoid weight gain.
- Drink water. Dehydration drains energy and impairs physical performance. Dehydration may also decrease alertness and concentration. If you are drinking enough water, urine should be pale yellow. Remember, many foods also contain water.
- Get enough sleep. Set a reasonable bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends. Create a quiet, comfortable space and incorporate a nightly routine. Don’t rule out naptime. Napping restores wakefulness and promotes performance and learning. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Longer than 30 minutes, and you may have trouble sleeping that night.
- Get social. As the gray days of winter drag on, the last thing you might want to do is leave your house. Scheduling regular activities with friends, a visit to a local coffee shop or activity center, even a phone call to catch up with a relative can boost your mood and enhance your bodies’ natural ability to combat seasonal depression. These social activities can raise dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormones that improve mood.
- Get a check up. Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. Medications can contribute to fatigue including some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs. If you begin to experience fatigue after starting a new medication, tell your doctor. Finally, talk to your doctor if your blahs turn to blues. If you are unable to shake extreme feelings of sadness or if you have thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Don’t hesitate to ask for help!
— Amy Bartels, Field Faculty in Human Development & Family Science, University of Missouri Extension
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