Do you struggle to get out of bed during the winter months? Are you feeling sluggish, irritable or depressed? If so, you are not alone. These are just some of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the winter blues.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 5% of adults in the United States experience SAD (the majority of which are women), and about 10% to 20% may get a milder form of the winter blues.
"Shorter days, darker skies, colder weather, poor sleep habits, and the stresses that come with the busy holidays and months at the end of the year can leave many people feeling fatigued and depressed at this time of year," says Dr. Elin Ritchie, a specialist in family alternative medicine.
Even if your case of the seasonal blues is mild, it still makes sense to take steps to help yourself feel better - prolonged fatigue and depression can affect your overall health. Here are some tips for fighting fatigue:
Get as much (safe) sun exposure as possible. Open drapes and blinds as soon as you wake to allow sunlight into your home. If you can, take a morning walk. Get as much time outdoors as your schedule and the weather permits. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in your body and also benefits your mental health. Remember, though, to use sunscreen, as the sun's ultraviolet rays can still damage your skin, even in winter.
Stick to a reliable sleep schedule as much as possible. Go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep - declutter, choose comfortable and comforting linens, and turn off the screens. "New studies show that sleep deprivation has detrimental effects on the immune system," says Ritchie. "Researchers believe that sleep should be considered a vital part of immune function, as it's clear that sleep and immunity are directly related."
Choose foods that are high in protein. Fruits and vegetables provide many healthful benefits and definitely belong in your diet. But for long-lasting energy, you'll get more benefit from lean protein (like chicken and fish) and complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread or beans. Avoid too much sugar. Sugar's energy rush is usually followed by an energy drop that can leave you feeling more fatigued.
Find ways to relax. The cooler seasons can be a very stressful time and stress can keep you awake at night. To combat natural levels of stress, find activities that relax you, whether it's container gardening indoors, meditation or aromatherapy. Relieving stress can help improve sleep patterns.
Support your immune system. Deficiency in anti-inflammatory interleukin-10 is a key factor in the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, according to an article recently published in the Journal of Clinical and Vaccine Immunology. Consider a nutritional supplement, like Del-Immune V, that increases the activity of interleukins in the body. Supporting your immune system may help lessen the symptoms of fatigue. Patients who take a regular dose of Del-Immune V to support their immune systems report a significant increase in energy levels.
"This time of year can be exhausting for many reasons," Ritchie notes. "But a few simple lifestyle changes, healthful diet and immune system support can help you feel more energized throughout the season."
It is important to note that if you are experiencing severe symptoms of depression to seek professional mental healthcare help.