How SAD are you?
According to the National Institute of Health data, roughly 6% of us living in northern climates suffer from seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), whilst approximately 14-percent of that same population experiences milder seasonal mood changes, or winter blues. That is an awfully large number of SAD people. Common signs and symptoms include:-
A draining and sudden lack of energy for no apparent reason may be your first indication that something is amiss, feelings of both mental and physical fatigue, as well as a weighted feeling throughout the entire body that makes otherwise easy activities and tasks completely exhausting.
Lack of focus
Issues with memory and concentration may also indicate SAD. Many describe this lack of focus as difficulties with remembering appointments to the more severe inability to make simple and routine decisions i.e. what to wear or eat.
Sudden changes in sleep patterns—which can range from sleeping all the time (hypersomnia) to not sleeping at all (insomnia)—will often indicate an issue if health is otherwise good. You may notice that you wake up frequently throughout the night or wake exhausted even though you slept 8 hours.
Joint & Muscle Pain
Neck, back, knees, hips, shoulders, headaches, and stomach upset—everything suddenly hurts for no apparent reason
Many SAD sufferers complain of being on an emotional rollercoaster where one minute they are in tears and the next minute they are overcome with anger. You may also feel agitated and restless, but not understand why or what to do to soothe this irritability. The anxiety that spreads through SAD sufferers can range from a mild restlessness to severe stress and jitters.
Weight & Appetite
You may experience sudden and significant weight loss or weight gain without a change in health, diet, or activity level in a matter of a few weeks, and you may lose all interest in food or use food as a way to comfort your emotions.
But it’s not all doom and gloom there are lots of ways to counteract these debilitating signs and symptoms.
Try a Light Box
If you suffer from mild or severe winter blues, light boxes expose you to light (at 10-times the degree of household lighting) and have been proven to reduce the symptoms of SAD. A light box is meant to supplement actual daylight exposure when the days are longer and darker. You can set your light box to the desired (to emit anywhere between half an hour to 2-hours of happy light).
While you may supplement your normal light exposure with a light box or a vitamin D supplement—it’s still vital that you get outside as much as possible in winter. After all, vitamin D (aka: the sunshine vitamin) is most effectively absorbed via the skin.
Use this as an excuse to get out for some fresh air and sunlight. Go for a winter hike, bike ride or make use of outdoor ice rinks. Daily aerobic exercise won’t only help you stay fit and energetic during winter—it will also lift your mental spirits (thanks to happy endorphins) as well. We already know that morning exercise can help boost your energy levels, mood, and metabolism for the day ahead. That’s why, even if you can’t get out for a run every day mid-winter—a morning walk especially on a clear sunny day will do the trick! It will take roughly 3 days of sun exposure outside to reverse those winter blues.
Eat for Better Hormone Balance
In addition to your circadian rhythms, the hormone melatonin greatly impacts your need to sleep and hibernate during winter. It also affects your sleeping-waking schedule, your mood, your energy levels, and the risk of seasonal affective disorder.
Your body emits greater amounts of melatonin during the dark, cold months of winter, which explains your need to bundle up on the couch and not emerge until spring. According to research from the University of Texas, certain foods (i.e., almonds, walnuts, and lettuce) naturally promote sleep.
Avoid Overloading On Carbs
During the winter, you’re likely to turn to comfort foods filled with carbohydrates and that sit heavily in your stomach. Pastas and breads, mashed potatoes and pies, can tempt you to overload on carbs. While it isn’t necessary to cut out carbs completely from your diet, having too much can worsen your symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Carbs can make you cathartic, directly affecting your mood with the spike—and inevitable drop—in your glucose level. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, protein and fiber. Get as much of the good stuff as you can and cut back on the carbs if you’re feeling sleepy and lazy a lot throughout the winter.
Stick to a Schedule
When it comes to work, sleep, exercise, and eating one thing is very important: doing these things on schedule. So do your best in winter to resist the urge to stay up too late or sleep in too long. The same goes for eating too much and eating healthy, balanced meals throughout the day.
Establishing and sticking to a regular schedule when it comes to sleep, physical activity, and eating will ensure your circadian rhythms stay balanced. Circadian rhythms are essentially your body’s internal clock. These 24-hour rhythms respond primarily to light and darkness (which is why regular sleep is essential) and affect you physically and mentally.
Stretching is an activity we strongly advise to be used by athletes, older adults, rehabilitation patients, and anyone participating in a fitness programme.
Passive stretches are muscle stretches that are performed with the aid of equipment or a partner to hold the limb in place. Dynamic stretching involves moving the limb from the neutral position to the end range position and then moving back to the neutral position. Dynamic actions are carried out in a smooth and controlled manner (Murphy, 1994). A static stretch, however, is performed by moving muscles to their greatest possible length and holding them there for a period of time (Anderson & Burke, 1991).
Obviously, there are many factors and reasons for reduced joint range of motion, only one of which is muscular tightness. Muscle tightness results from an increase in tension from active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles can become shortened through postural adaptation (sitting all day) or scarring; actively, muscles can become shorter due to spasm or contraction. Regardless of the cause, tightness limits range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance (Page P, 2012).
Static stretching is effective at increasing range of movement. The greatest change in range of motion with a static stretch occurs between 15 and 30 seconds (McHugh, et al. 1992; Bandy & Irion, 1994); most authors suggest that 10 to 30 seconds is sufficient for increasing flexibility (Bandy & Irion, 1994; Cipriani et al., 2003). In addition, no increase in muscle elongation occurs after 2 to 4 repetitions (Taylor et al., 1990).
Stretching is also usually incorporated pre-exercise as it has been suggested to improve muscle flexibility, prevent muscle injury and enhance physical performance (as cited in O’Sullivan, Murray & Sainsbury, 2009). Though other studies have shown passive stretching prior to exercise can reduce performance by up to 20% (American Journal of Applied Physiology)
We recommend that everybody, regardless of your activity level and especially those over 65 years old, should incorporate static stretching into daily regime to help maintain joint health, range of movement and overall flexibility.
This should enable you to maintain flexibility into later life.
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Does your mood turn grey with the weather?