Expert Tips For Tackling The Winter Blues

Today is Blue Monday – also known as the most depressing day of the year. But if you’re determined not to let winter weather and a third lockdown dampen your spirits, the good news is there are ways to boost your mood. From the nutrients to prioritise to the importance of sunlight, here’s what three of London’s top wellbeing experts recommend…

Reduce Your Mental Load

“Right now, we need less pressure, not more, so reducing the number of choices you have to make in a day can free up mental capacity where it’s really needed. Creating a daily routine helps for this reason or from a practical point of view, identifying several work outfits or choosing five meals for dinner and rotating between them. It’s not about being rigid, it’s about reducing mental load. It’s about pacing yourself and acknowledging you might not be able to deliver the same volume of output at the same quality. It’s also helpful to recognise the difference between crutches and self-care. Crutches (caffeine, comfort food, scrolling, online shopping, alcohol) help us in the moment, but tend to make tomorrow harder (either depleting energy levels, interfering with sleep, adding to financial burden or diminishing our self-esteem). Self-care on the other hand, helps us navigate our day but also nourishes our future self.” – Suzy Reading, charted psychologist

Go Back To Basics

“To stay mentally well in the midst of a new lockdown, the best thing you can do is observe the ‘energy bank basics’ – that’s movement for mental health and mood, hydration and nourishing food so you can think straight, sleep for sanity, rest for resilience, nature to unplug and social connection to feed the soul. To soothe the nervous system, try restorative practices like guided meditation, yoga nidra (guided relaxation), gentle yoga and breathing exercises.” – Suzy 

Get Some Light

“Dealing with darker, colder weather can feel like a mental struggle. My top tip? Keep your Christmas lights up. At the very least, add some fairy lights to your living room, and use candles and scent to make your home and workspace feel cosy and inviting. Make the commitment to taking a daily ‘awe walk’ to get a dose of daylight, ideally in the morning for at least 20 minutes to boost your circadian rhythms and lift your mood. Set out with the express intention of noticing anything you find awe inspiring.” – Suzy 

Tackle Loneliness With Compassion

“If you are suffering with feelings of loneliness, think about what connection means to you and consider different ways of plugging in. Connection is about staying current, sharing our lives and communicating care. It needn’t be a lengthy Zoom call – perhaps a voice note or postcard resonates more. Honour your boundaries and know it’s okay to protect your energy in how you choose to connect.” – Suzy 

If you are suffering with feelings of loneliness, think about what connection means to you and consider different ways of plugging in.
Suzy Reading

Understand It’s Normal

“By nature, we all slow down during the winter months, which in Chinese medicine represents the most yin aspect in the year relating to dark, cold, slow and inward energy. Winter is the season of stillness and conservation – it’s a period of hibernation and our time to rest, slow down and revitalise our reserves. This inward feeling can sometimes feel negative and we generally feel less enthusiastic and motivated and a little sleepier – this is normal. In summer, our yang energy shines and our energy is full of light and happiness.” – Emilia Herting, co-founder of Escapada and TCM practitioner

Up Your Vitamin D 

“Vitamin D’s role in depression and anxiety is not fully understood, although we do know vitamin D receptors exist in the brain. In animal studies, we know vitamin D increases serotonin levels in the brain and this effect is thought to be replicated in humans, helping to improve mood and wellbeing. Consider supplementing with vitamin D – Better You D-Lux 3000 Spray in the winter and D-Lux 1000 Spray in the summer. This is an oral spray which allows vitamin D to be absorbed sublingually into the bloodstream, avoiding the gastrointestinal route, which always results in lesser absorption of any nutrient.” – Shabir Daya, MRPharmS and co-founder of Victoria Health

Think About Your Stress Levels

“Whether you’re having a stressful time at work or are battling with mood swings and anxiety, consider taking magnolia rhodiola complex, a quick acting anti-stress supplement, which helps your body deal with cortisol. It helps make your body more tolerant to stress and also physically relaxes your muscles without causing drowsiness. In fact, studies show rhodiola can increase the uptake by the brain of mood-elevating serotonin by as much as 30%. Probiotics can also help, with research showing they can positively affect mood. Florissant Mood Improve is also worth a try – this particular probiotic blend has been shown to have a positive influence on the biochemical signalling between your gut and nervous system.” – Shabir 

Look To Your Diet

“The right nutrition can help tackle the winter blues. For example, serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in your gut, so include fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, plain yoghurt, kefir and kombucha, in your diet to support good bacteria. Lean protein also contains high amounts of amino acids, which can positively affect mood; turkey in particular contains the amino acids tryptophan and melatonin, both of which are calming. Also increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease depression and give a feeling of wellbeing – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and tuna are all good. Dark chocolate – with at least 70% cocoa solids – will also release endorphins that improve mood.” – Kathryn Danzey, founder of Rejuvenated and wellness expert

Try To Be More Mindful

“If you feel overwhelmed, try listening to this ten-minute audio – it’s from the book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide To Finding Peace in A Frantic World. You can download it to listen to at any time. We hear it so often, but it’s so important to breathe mindfully. It’s so easy to sit at your computer and realise you’re holding your breath – try to breathe deeply from your stomach rather than short breaths in the chest. Also consider making a smile folder – whether it’s on your computer, a scrap book or a collection of photos, gather together all your happy moments, photos and cards.” – Kathryn 

When you can’t get outside, exercise indoors. Dance, tai chi, qi gong and yoga will all promote healthy circulation, reduce stress and help with chippy mood swings.
Emilia Herting

Take Up A Hobby

“Taking up a new hobby can keep your mind active and ward off symptoms of SAD. This can be anything from keeping a journal to singing or knitting. Learning and discovering new things is stimulating and gives you something to look forward to. A hobby can also be a good way to connect with others – for example, I bought my husband a beehive for Christmas and he’s enjoying finding out how to get started whilst interacting online with the beekeeping community.” – Kathryn 

Eat Whole Foods

“You are more likely to crave carbs in the form of starches and carbs during the winter months, but these foods will raise your blood sugar quickly, leading to a crash, fatigue and mood swings. Eating whole foods will prevent this and will further strength body and mind – eat plenty of wholegrains instead of white flour; dark leafy greens; pulses, good-quality poultry, meat and fish; nuts and small amounts of good fats. When you are feeling low, try to increase your intake of vitamin D, omega 3, vitamin B6, magnesium, l-thyrosine and vitamin B9.” – Emilia 

Stay Warm

“In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), warmth is nourishing, and keeping your feet warm can help boost wellbeing. The sole of your foot is where the kidney meridian begins, the organ related to the season of winter. A hot water foot bath before bed is a great way to help keep warm and nourish your winter energy – this draws heat away from your head and body, and helps internalise your thoughts, contributing to a good night’s sleep. It cools your body’s core, inducing melatonin production, which will make you feel sleep.” – Emilia 

Bundle Up & Exercise Outdoors

“Create a daily routine that’s based on when it’s light outside, which will increase your sun exposure while getting your Qi moving. Any kind of aerobic exercise will help increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter than helps stabilise mood – a vigorous 20-minute walk in the sunlight can make a big difference. When you can’t get outside, exercise indoors. Dance, tai chi, qi gong and yoga will all promote healthy circulation, reduce stress and help with chippy mood swings.” – Emilia 

 

Self-Care For Tough Times by Suzy Reading is out in paperback on 11th February; visit SuzyReading.co.uk, EscapadaHealth.com and VictoriaHealth.com for more information.

 

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