It is challenging to smile with merriment when other emotions are bubbling below the surface. If this is a challenging time of year for you or if the cold, dark days affect your wellbeing, here is some support for you.
We can easily neglect ourselves with the stress of the season. Make yourself a priority. Be compassionate to yourself for exactly how you are feeling. Take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s OK to feel exactly how you are feeling.
Do something everyday to recharge your batteries. This is different for everyone. If you are an introvert, the busyness of holiday social events can become overwhelming so be sure to give yourself some quiet down time.
Mindfulness is a wonderful practice for promoting relaxation and reducing stress. A Harvard study demonstrated that practicing mindfulness meditation for about 30 min per day over 8 weeks improved brain function.
MRI evaluation showed an increase of brain tissue associated with emotional integration and decreased density in the amygdala associated with stress and anxiety. Give yourself the gift of silence this holiday!
Movement is essential for emotional wellbeing. The mind and body are not separate. Exercise stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters associated with positive mood. Even if all you have time for is a walk, it will make a difference. Challenge your excuses and notice how much better you feel afterwards!
We’ve reached the darkest day of the year. Brighten up your day with full spectrum light. Spend time outside everyday. As an extra support in the winter months, spending 30 minutes within the first hour of your day under a full spectrum, SAD lamp can be helpful for mood and energy.
The holidays are abundant with delicious food. Although this is the time for celebration, we can be tempted to use food and alcohol to distract ourselves from our feelings beyond a healthy balance. Bring awareness to how overindulgence affects how you emotionally feel.
How do you feel on a sugar high and crash? Excessive refined sugar can cause fluctuations in our blood sugar that affects our mood and energy levels. Although tempting to numb ourselves, excessive alcohol is not a solution for the winter blues. Explore what a healthy balance looks like for you.
Certain nutrients and herbal medicines are helpful at supporting emotional wellbeing and reducing our physiological response to stress. Check with your Naturopathic Doctor for specific dosing for you and drug interactions.
Vitamin D3 – This vitamin acts like a hormonal steroid in the body and is deficient in most of us during the winter months. Research suggests that lower levels of Vitamin D may affect serotonin levels in the brain correlating with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
B Vitamins - There are a spectrum of B vitamins that are depleted during stress and with increased alcohol consumption. B vitamins are precursors for neurotransmitters of the nervous system that are essential for mood and improving physical and mental energy.
Omega 3 – This essential fatty acid is concentrated in the brain and nervous system. It is often deficient in our diet and studies show increased levels of omega 3 improve mood, focus and concentration.
Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that gently relaxes muscle tension and calms the nervous system. It is helpful to take before bed to improve sleep and promote relaxation. Epsom salt baths are a source of magnesium and are a wonderful way to unwind from a stressful day. Put 1-2 cups in your bath water and enjoy.
Iron - Iron deficiency can leave us feeling rundown and exhausted. Deficiency can be associated with feelings of depression, especially in women. Excess iron can be harmful, so get your hemoglobin and ferritin levels checked through a blood test to see if you are deficient.
Ask for Help
It can be difficult to admit when we don’t feel well. Seek trusted health professionals to support you. Reach out to family and friends. Being authentic and genuine can take courage to be vulnerable but is a huge part of the healing journey.
Wishing you a happy, restful and relaxing holiday season.
Dr. Heather Prescott, ND