Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beating the Winter Blues




We are approaching the middle of February and many of us are enduring an exceedingly cold winter. The days are dark and dreary, and we perk up just a bit when that strange large glowing orb makes an occasional appearance in the sky. As the weather turns wet, cold and gloomy, a heaviness seems to settle in upon us like an oppressive cloud. We seem to feel oppressed and run down, as if everything we do seems to require more effort. All the while we question ourselves in an internal dialogue, asking, "Why do I feel this way?"


The winter season brings quite a load upon us both physically and mentally due to the plummeting temperatures, fluctuating weather patterns and the decreasing amount of light.  Each one of these burdens can have a huge negative effect on our overall health and well-being.  Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make ourselves feel better so that we not only survive the grip of "old man winter," but to thrive in it. 



Avoiding getting sick. Winter heralds the time where it seems like every one around you starts to get sick, and with good reason. The cold weather effects our immune systems, and we have a tougher time fighting against various viruses colds and the flu. This is the time where we need to be nice to our bodies and do all that we can to defend against this microbiological onslaught. Some of the many steps we can take to protect ourselves from illness include:

1) Wash your hands! While you don't have to be as obsessive about it like Monk or Felix Unger, keeping your hands clean goes a long way toward protecting yourself from illness,. Due to the cold and dryness of the air we unconsciously touch or rub at our faces. Since we pick up a huge amount germs by making hand contact with surfaces, we risk contracting illness with every mouths swipe or touch of the noses. Wash your hands properly with soap, scrubbing away from the faucet for 20 seconds, before rinsing. Try to do it at least five times a day. This is especially important if you use mass transit. Wash after arriving at work, and after arriving home.

2) Use your own personal items! Carry and use your own pen, cell phone, tablet, cup or glass, etc. If you must borrow someone else's item, remember to avoid touching your face during its use, until you can wash your hands again. 








3) Hydrate! It's hard to believe, but it is very easy to become dehydrated during winter due to the dryness of the air. Drinking water is the easy-breezy way to not only keep your body on an even keel, but to flush the germs and toxins that may already be present, and prevent viruses and bacteria from taking hold if you've been exposed.



4) Dress in Layers - Shrek the ogre once told his friend Donkey, "Ogres have layers." In order to stay warm in the winter, we too must have layers. Cold weather requires more than your old reliable heavy jacket. Each extra item of clothing we put on helps to trap needed body heat which makes a big difference, especially at sub-zero temperatures. Don't forget the basics. A comfortable hat, adequate footwear and good pair of mittens or gloves are worth shelling out a few extra dollars for, in the interest of personal comfort and warmth. There is nothing more miserable than to have freezing hands and feet. (For very cold climates, I highly recommend a pair of "choppers" or insulated gauntleted mittens. Trust me, they keep your hands quite warm if you must be out for longer periods.)

Dealing with the Blahs

The grey grip of Winter effects us emotionally as well, whether we like it or not. Here are a few ways to make it a little easier.

 


1) See the Light!  Do you best to spend as much time in bright light as possible. There are actually some people who suffer from what's called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) who become severely depressed during this time. Light box therapy, helps them immeasurably to lift and improve their mood. A light box or "SAD lamp" can be easily found in drug stores, medical supply houses or online. Give it a try!

2) Shake it up! - Our mental and physical energy are influenced by the short days and long nights of winter Darkness prompts our bodies to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, making us feel fatigued. Slogging through snow and ice, trembling from the cold while concentrating on avoiding slips and falls, will certainly add to making everything else you need to do seem more difficult. A brisk walk, or a little vigorous exercise once a day for about 15 minutes can put a little spring back in your step. If it's icy or the snow is deep, try walking in a mall or indoor shopping center. If you prefer staying at home, try some jogging in place, or put on a little music and boogie! That is certainly a fun way to recharge your batteries and get the blood flowing.


3) Carb it up! Spice it up! Foods like whole grains, beans and nuts are full of complex carbohydrates which when eaten without protein elevates the production of the mood enhancing chemical Serotonin within the body, Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish like Salmon do the body good this way as well. Dark chocolate at 70% cacao or higher will also improve the mood. Remember to use these in moderation. In addition, various spices (we recommend the organic variety) like Tumeric, Cinnamon, Clove, Garlic, and a host of others we have featured here in our blog, will not only improve the well-being of your body, but also help it to ward off cold and flu.



 4) Don't fight the feeling - Do yourself a favor. When you really feel that tiredness coming on, take a break and close your eyes and relax for a few minutes. If you can manage it, take a power nap. A short rest can help to recharge your batteries, or at least take the edge off.

Lifting your Spirit

Since winter can be hard on all of us, we can use a welcome distraction away from the cold dreary pressure it can put on us. Here are a few ways to do just that.
1) Do something fun! - Find an activity that makes you happy, and DO IT! Whether it be going out to a movie, engaging in a hobby, spending quality time with friends, or whatever turns you on, do something that makes you feel good. Don't allow "cabin fever" to take over your life just because it's cold and dreary outside. Be good to yourself.

2) Imagineering - Surround yourself with plants flowers and other growing things to remind you that winter doesn't last forever. Post pictures of a tropical island and water or a forest or meadow in spring or summer. Look at the view and imagine yourself there. What would you do? Where would you go? Dream it and live it out in your mind's eye for a few minutes each day. While children do use their imaginations, there is nothing wrong with us as adults using ours as well. Relax and spend a little time in your own "Fantasy Island."



3) Get a "Peaceful Easy feeling" - Like the Eagle's song, finding ways to relax and take a little stress away from your life goes a long way toward improving your health and boosting your immune system. Life's little stressors can take their toll on you both mentally and physically. Relaxing with a good book, a pampering bubble bath, singing along with your favorite songs, or just finding a quiet corner to meditate or calm the mind can melt stress away even for a little while. Practicing these feel good techniques provide you with a strong support, shoring up both body and mind, so you to are "standing on the ground."

There are many other things that we can do to take the edge off the winter blues as well. Do a little research on the subject, and especially on nutrition and herbal remedies. Put it to good use, and kick "old man winter" to the curb.

Blessings,
Nehemiah





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