If your energy levels plummet in the winter, you’re not alone. Lack of sunlight and subsequent deficiencies in Vitamin D, plus changes in routine and nutrition around the holidays, can have surprisingly profound effects on our energy levels and overall health.
It’s important to differentiate Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, from generic winter blues. Caused by the way sunlight deficiency affects our circadian rhythm along with changes in the chemicals serotonin and melatonin, SAD presents in depression, loss of interest in hobbies, difficulty sleeping, agitation and sluggishness, and overall low mood.
While TK Americans have SAD, even more experience a “winter funk” that comes around with the colder weather and darker days. If you live in a snowy climate (like Minnesota!), you may also have a sense of “cabin fever” that comes with being holed up at home in the winter months.
The good news is, there are some simple shifts in lifestyle that can help increase your energy levels and boost your mood until the sun (and its warmth!) shows its face again. Here are a few suggestions for beating the winter blues:
- Invest in the right supplements:
- Vitamin D is essential for anyone who experiences the winter blues. Did you know the majority of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D in the winter months? If you’re low (anything less than 50 is not optimal), you may experience mood changes or a weakened immune system.
- B Vitamins: Since B-vitamins are essential for proper energy production, a good Methylated B-Vitamin complex is essential, both in winter and throughout the year.
- Adaptogens: Herbs that help the body adapt to stress, adaptogens like Maca, Holy Basil, and Ashwagandha can equip the body with stamina and strength you need to make it through a funk.
- Inflammacore: If your energy is zapped due to recurring sickness or general inflammation, Inflammacore can help restore your gut, reduce inflammatory responses, and strengthen your immune system.
- Invest in the right supplements:
- Don’t neglect nutrition: Proper nutrition is key year round to feel balanced and vibrant. While carb-ridden, sugary foods might feel comfortable in the moment, they aren’t helpful for your body long term since they’re inflammatory and negatively affect blood sugar (nobody wants a sugar crash!). Instead, focus on nourishing your brain with healthy fats like avocado and fish oil, and reducing inflammatory foods like dairy, sugar, and grains.
- Move your body: It may seem counterproductive to exercise when you’re already experiencing fatigue, but regular exercise — aim for 30 minutes, a few times a week — plays a big role in maintaining energy levels. Plus, the resulting endorphins are an instant mood booster! If it’s too cold for a walk outside and you don’t have a gym membership, try a yoga or pilates class or try searching a video on YouTube!
- Resist the temptation to over-caffeinate: Do you find yourself reaching for a second cup of coffee every morning? A small amount of caffeine isn’t usually an issue, but too much of it causes the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers the fight-or-flight response and exhausts the body. If you’re so tired during the day you’re not able to focus, try a nutritious snack like nuts paired with a piece of fruit, or a brisk walk. Green teas like matcha are also less stressful to the body, if your hot beverage habit is too difficult to resist.
- Schedule an adjustment: When your spine is healthy, your whole body will feel healthy! Think of an adjustment like an alarm clock to wake up your body. Regular adjustments ensure your nervous system can effectively send messages to other systems and organs in your body, which can strengthen your immune system, help you sleep and digest your food, and even give you more energy throughout the day!