Cold Weather and Dark Days Ahead!
The days are certainly getting shorter here in Canada. Many of us get up in the dark, go about our daily duties and before we know it, it feels like the sun is going down. It can feel a little depressing at times. In fact as I write this article, it is currently 3:45p.m. and I notice that the sky looks a little dimmer than it did a little while ago.
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but it will continue to get darker every day until December 21 when we have our shortest day of the year. After that, we will gain a little more sunlight every day.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that we also endure some very cold temperatures at this time of year as well. lol
So, it’s not difficult to understand that we may feel a little low at times. We might feel extra tired, we may want to eat more carbohydrates like chips and junk food. I certainly go through periods of time when I do this. I really enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix and eating lots of junk food, it feels good!
We might even want to hunker down and hibernate, closing ourselves off from the world. Is there a point where this can become unhealthy? Yes, there is, it’s called Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). We should be mindful of the difference between the Winter Blues and SAD.
What Causes SAD and the Winter Blues?
From what I understand, the specific cause of SAD and the Winter Blues is unknown. However, the change in season and the decreased amount of sunshine is thought to be a primary reason. Some people experience the following problems when exposed to less daylight:
- Lower levels of serotonin levels. (Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter).
- Disruption to the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythms. (Having to do with the sleep/wake cycles)
- Changes in melatonin levels. (Melatonin is a hormone that is associated with sleep and mood).
What is the difference between SAD and the Winter Blues?
While the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affect Disorder are similar, SAD is much more severe and can be quite serious if left unchecked. It shares many symptoms with clinical depression, the main distinguishing factor of SAD is that it usually appears during the winter months.
Common Signs of Seasonal Affect Disorder
- Sleeping too much
- Eating too much
- Depressed mood that lasts most of the day, lasting multiple days in a row
- Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyed
- Withdrawing and isolating yourself from family and friends
- Difficulty staying focused and performing normal work/home duties
- Prolonged feelings of fatigue and lethargy
- Lack of hope for the future
- Suicidal thoughts
If you suffer from these symptoms, you may want to seek some professional help. There are treatments available such as:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D supplements
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Winter Blues can be thought of as a mild version of SAD. Many of us experience a shift in mood during the cold, darker days of winter. Despite the general malaise, one is still able to take part in and enjoy life.
Common Signs of the Winter Blues
- General sadness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty taking initiative
- Lack of energy
- Feeling less social than normal
Now that we know the difference between SAD and the Winter Blues, we can move forward. Once again, if you are experiencing the more serious signs of SAD, seek professional advice.
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Essential Oils and the Winter Blues
If you experience occasional bouts of the Winter Blues, you may find essential oils to be helpful. In fact, some oils can be used to target certain feelings. For instance, I have provided a list of oils to help with feelings of lethargy and another list to help when you are feeling emotionally unstable.
Some oils to target feelings of lethargy include:
- Black Pepper
Are you feeling sad and a bit depressed? The following essential oils are known to help balance your emotions.
- Ylang ylang
- Clary Sage
Do you have a diffuser and a little collection of oils? Get them out and start diffusing. There are so many physical and emotional benefits available to you. Try blending some of the above mentioned oils. Click here to learn about blending.
There’s more you can do!
I love diffusing oils and I honest believe in their abilities to help us through difficult times. I do know, however, that we may need to make additional efforts to help ourselves when we are battling something like the Winter Blues. Here are some suggestions:
- Try to eat a balanced diet. Get lots of proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to eat three meals a day and if possible, try to have your meals at approximately the same time
- Make plans with family and friends. Stay connected to the people you love to be around. Even if it takes a little extra psychic energy to get out, it’s likely you will be glad you did.
- Exercise a little bit every day. Your mind and your body will thank you for it! Go for a walk outside in the sunshine!
- Keeping a regular sleeping pattern will help to normalize your circadian rhythms.
- Make sure you take part in the activities that you know you enjoy. Take the time to pamper yourself, take a long bath, read a good book, make a craft, play a game, etc
- Avoid the urge to overindulge in starchy or sweet foods. This is a hard one for me. One of my favorite things to do on a cold winter’s night is to open a big bag of salt and vinegar chips (one must have chocolate too) and settle in to binge watch a show on Netflix. This makes me think of something my mother used to say “All things in moderation”, although, I’m fairly certain she really meant “Most things in moderation” lol
Until next time…..
With the coming dark days and cold weather here in Canada (and other places in the Northern hemisphere), it’s easy to fall into bad habits. There are many times that I find I would rather just stay in and avoid going out. I know this is not healthy for the mind or the body. Planning outings is essential for me, I am not much of a spur of the moment kind of person.
It is my intention to continue to visit the local Farmers Market during the upcoming winter. Normally, this is something I do in the summer months. I have decided to continue with this outing in the winter now. Local vendors have moved inside our City Hall and outside one can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while warming up around a little fire pit. Despite the cold weather it will still be fun! I just need to put on those extra layers and get out there.
Please feel free to use the comment box below if you have any thoughts about the above information. All shares and likes are greatly appreciated!
I wish each one of you a very fine week ahead. Keep yourselves happy and healthy!
Angela (founder of Your Aromatherapy Store)
I just want to reiterate, if you are experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affect Disorder then please visit your doctor. If you would like to use essential oils as a complimentary medication, be sure to discuss this as some essential oils do not mix well with prescription drugs.
I would like to remind you that essential oils are very POTENT and should be used with common sense and caution. Always read the labels. If you are currently taking any prescribed medication it is recommended that you speak to your doctor before using essential oils.
If you are concerned about allergies, you may want to perform a patch test on your skin.
It is also good to be aware that some essential oils are photo toxic. Avoid the sun as necessary when using these oils.
Please know that some oils are not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing.
Essential oils are considered “complementary and alternative medicines” and are not always a substitute for professional medical intervention and advice. If you are experiencing severe physical or mental illness it is best to contact a medical professional.