Winter Blues

Winter Blues
1 September 2016, 01:59

Congratulations we have almost made it through another winter; surviving the onslaught of the seasonal pathogens and viruses the scourge of winter.

Another scourge of the winter weather is that feeling of seasonal tiredness that may even extend to exhaustion. The British NHS (National Health Service) has published an interesting article on this with the acronym TATT (tired all the time).

TATT symptoms are one of the most common symptoms healthcare professionals deal with through the winter months; though people may be receiving adequate restorative sleep, one in five people feel unusually tired and one in ten experience prolonged fatigue according to the Royal College of Physicians and it appears to be more of an
issue for women than for men. It is unusual to link these symptoms to another physical problem; it appears to be
linked to an accumulation of numerous small stressful experiences that just chip away at your sense of well-being
and energy levels.

If you are experiencing these TATT symptoms it is important to touch base with your healthcare professional. The TATT symptoms may be linked to anaemia, thyroid, diabetes, food intolerance, sleep disorders, overweight, underweight or numerous other medical conditions; the likelihood of an underlying medical condition increases if you are experiencing TATT in combination with other changes in body function (symptoms). Other factors that may result in TATT are a change of lifestyle, workload, bereavement, emotional shock, relationship breakup, and pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks.

10 Things Winter Blues

  1. Organise your days to incorporate more physical activity, take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk to and from the shops, walk the dog further and more often, indoor sports, gym etc.
  2. Be sure to organise your day to provide adequate time for sleep, establish healthy sleep patterns. Our bodies thrive on routine, regular bedtime is a good start, alcohol, coffee and tea within 4 hours of bedtime may affect sleep patterns.
  3. Generally when we think back months and years we can’t remember the reasons for the sleepless nights, the stress and anxiety. Somehow down the track it doesn’t seem that bad and very often we can’t even remember  what it was all about, time heals and dilutes what at the time seemed to be insurmountable. Stand back and look from afar at what’s bothering you; go over it with a true friend, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  4. Our energy levels and sense of well-being are linked to the circadian rhythm which in turn are stimulated and dependent on sunlight. Sunlight and exercise are the most cost effective health supplement available to us; the only cost is some time and shoe leather. When outside in the winter months it is important to increase your skin exposure whenever possible to the reduced hours and angle of sunlight, our bodies need sunlight to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is fundamental for the production of the feel good hormones, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. The feel good hormones are a bit of a misnomer as they don’t necessarily make us feel good but they stop us feeling bad.
  5. Lack of serotonin can result in us being depressed and grumpy; serotonin makes us more sociable and agreeable. When we socialise and interact with others we may experience positive emotions; choose carefully who you interact with. Boost serotonin by choosing positive thoughts, low intensity exercise and sunlight.
  6. Dopamine is the hormone that promotes the feeling of pleasure and is produced when we reach the summit of our personal Everest. When we set and achieve goals our reward is the production of dopamine. Boost those natural dopamine shots by setting daily, weekly, monthly and long term goals. Realistic and achievable goals give the best results; we are pre-programmed to be productive and achieve. For some of us our Everest maybe establishing and or maintaining a garden for others, being independent and self-sufficient and for others a Himalayan hike. Dopamine and serotonin levels lift with exercise.
  7. Oxytocin can be linked to the feelings of love and trust. This is why relationships with people and pets boosts our feeling of well-being; oxytocin is also linked to childbirth which releases enormous amounts of the feel good hormones which helps us cope with one of life’s most rewarding processes; an old fashioned hug and lovemaking also release oxytocin. Oxytocin can be boosted by maintaining relationships with the people whose company you enjoy, especially those emotional relationships, prolonged physical contact, a snuggle in bed, a hug, that spontaneous holding of hands or a cuddle while watching TV or maybe something more structured like massage. If you feel the urge to hug someone your children, wife, friend or workmate do it, its good for both of you; you will be promoting a feeling of trust and affection.
  8. Endorphins are a link to our more primitive past, the process of natural selection and evolution favoured those of our ancestors whose body’s adequate levels of endorphins which are linked to endurance and are a natural painkiller; the name endorphins has its origins in the words (endogenous and morphine). Endorphins boosted our survival rate providing us with the stamina and reserve oxygen storage when in flight from predators. The natural painkiller suppressed the pain from damage and injury as we escaped. When safe and winding down from the survival experience, we then feel the pain from the injury which had been suppressed by the actions of the endorphins.
  9. Water-healthy body function and the maintenance of our various natural processes and the production of hormones rely on an adequate intake of water. In the winter months our bodies may not respond in the same way as they do in the summer triggering the usual indicators of thirst resulting in dehydration; a swollen tongue, lifting anxiety and stress levels including effects on skin, make an effort to drink around 2L of water per day. This includes fruit juices, milk, sodas (watch the sugar intake) and herbal teas. The consumption of caffeine drinks may increase water demand.
  10. There is research that undermines the long accepted belief that winter results in more depression and a significant reduction of the feeling of joy and well-being, so like everything we have come to believe as fact and our acceptance of the metaphor that winter is the time of abandonment and retreat, it may just be a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. A number of studies have resulted in findings that our minds are more sprightly through the winter months than the summer months; this may come down once again to evolution as food tends to be more scarce in the winter than summer, so just as we are programmed to be more alert when hungry and lethargic after the consumption of food our survival may have depended on being alert to hunt and avoid our predators.

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