I do not do well in the cold. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life, but I've never enjoyed bundling up, and I don't think I'll EVER get used to the snow! The winter is full of gloomy days, and I need sunshine!
Once the cold weather starts to kick in, I begin to feel the winter blues. The sun sets earlier. It's too cold to enjoy activities outside. Overall, I struggle to find the positives. I want to stay on top of it this winter, so I got some advice from Shelby M. Gardner, MD, a family medicine specialist at The Christ Hospital Physicians – Primary Care.
If you're stuck inside during the colder months, what are things you can do to keep your energy levels up?
I love the outdoors! Hiking, kayaking and bike riding are some of my favorite activities to do when I need to clear my mind and get some fresh air. Staying active helps keep my energy up.
I can't enjoy any of that during the winter — especially once we start to see snow! During the colder months, I start to feel sluggish. How can I keep my energy levels up during this time?
Dr. Gardner says, "Winter in the Midwest means less sunlight, which means our bodies increase production of a hormone called melatonin and decrease the neurotransmitter called serotonin. This can result in increased fatigue and lack of energy, or the winter blues."
Dr. Gardner recommends eating clean and getting at least 10 minutes of movement per day. She also suggests, "Reach out to a friend or family member who knows how to make you laugh. Borrow a new book from your local library, make one of your favorite family recipes or declutter your space."
What are some tips for setting goals when you're feeling the Winter Blues?
Any and all motivation leaves my body during the winter. When it's cold, I just want to curl up in a blanket and SLEEP! Dr. Gardner encourages setting a "SMART goal."
SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Dr. Gardner breaks it down:
- Specific encourages you to describe what you'll do in action words.
- Measurable provides a metric to evaluate your progress.
- Don't set yourself up for frustration and burnout — make sure your goal is achievable!
- To help stick to your goal, it's helpful to make sure that it also is relevant to your overall priorities.
- Lastly, give yourself a time frame to work within.
I find that sharing my goals with others can help me build a support system and keep me accountable. If you feel comfortable with that, it's another tip Dr. Gardner recommends.
Are there any foods I can incorporate into my diet to fight the Winter Blues?
During the cold months, there is nothing better than a hot plate of your favorite food. It can be comforting on the dreary days. One of my favorite comfort foods is mac and cheese!
However, diet plays a big role with the winter blues. Eating healthy is important and Dr. Gardner advises, "Not every meal needs to be perfect (sometimes a bowl of your favorite cozy comfort food can nourish your emotional/mental health as much as your physical health), but in general trying to follow a balanced, healthy diet is going to be key."
Grocery shopping for healthy foods can feel overwhelming to me. Dr. Gardner had some great ideas, "Diets that are mostly fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains are the way to go. I try to eat seasonally to keep produce costs down. For example, berries like blueberries or raspberries are excellent sources of antioxidants and vitamin C to help keep your immune system strong during cold and flu season, but they can be expensive this time of year. Instead, I might opt for sunny citrus like oranges or grapefruit. Frozen and low-sodium canned vegetables are nearly identical in nutritional value and sometimes easier/cheaper to get than their fresh counterparts."
The most important thing is to BE KIND TO YOURSELF!