From Winter Slump to Winter Wake Up

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

As human beings, there are times when we will all experience emotions such as sadness or grief. There are days when we feel down and days when we feel on top of the world. It is important to note that there are differences between feeling the emotions of sadness or grief and experiencing the Winter Blues or having a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Depression. SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons. If you think you have SAD or depression, please discuss your symptoms with a doctor or mental health professional.

The Winter Blues are connected to seasonal changes and less exposure to light. Although related to SAD, the Winter Blues symptoms are less severe and may not necessitate professional treatment. If what you are experiencing is more complex than the winter blues, please bring it up to your doctor or counselor. The following recommendations here will focus on preventative actions that individuals can plan to help minimize the Winter Blues.

Light. One challenge during the wintertime, especially in northern Ohio is that we do not get as much exposure to natural light during the day compared to other times of the year such as springtime or summertime. This winter, bundle up and get outside to experience the sunshine! It’s good to get out on sunny days as well as gray days when the weather cooperates. Inside, open blinds and curtains. Use brighter light bulbs or consider a light therapy box.

People. Connect with others. This benefits not only you, but also other people. Make plans with friends to meet in person or on the phone. Send a text, note, or mail to let others know you’re thinking of them. Join a new group or volunteer for other people. Let close family and friends know about your Winter Blues. Let them know how to best encourage and support you. Some people purposely plan many events with others during this time to make sure they get out and socialize. Make plans now to meet up for coffee – or tea, or a light meal or snack. Some healthy food ideas are listed below.

Movement. For those who have a regular outdoor exercise routine, winter weather can thwart the best made plans. For days and evenings when it’s too cold, icy, or dark to exercise outside, have your indoor options ready! Try indoor walks, chair exercises, or blast the upbeat music for a dance party.

Warmth and Comfort. This slower, colder time of year invites opportunities to rest and relax. Where’s your favorite blanket or soft scarf? What is your favorite warm drink? Have these winter supplies ready for warmth and comfort. Although this is not the same as the previous recommendation of increasing natural light exposure, this is a good time of year to enjoy the coziness of low lights, candle light, and holiday lights. In the midst of the cold, gray weather, search out and create simple ways to relax.

Food and Nourishment. Often, when I think of “comfort foods” I think of sweets and desserts. Others might crave salty, crunchy foods. In fact, one symptom of SAD can be a craving for surgery or starchy foods. With a little planning, our food can offer comfort as well as daily nutrients.

While sweet and salty foods can play a small role in our food choices, take some time to identity, and list your favorite healthy foods that can play a larger role in daily food choices. From that list make sure you have these comfort foods available to enjoy at mealtime or for a healthy snack during the day. It probably won’t surprise you that the following food recommendations for a healthy winter diet are not different from recommendations that are also good for our hearts and immune system.

  • Whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice
  • Lean protein like chicken and turkey, as well as dried beans and lentils
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, macadamias, peanuts, and cashews
  • Fruits like bananas and citrus fruit like oranges, grapefruit and clementines
  • Vegetables like leafy greens, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower
  • Brew some green tea, black tea, or herbal tea
  • Enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate