Dealing With the Winter Blues

The Eastsider

50
The author embracing the outdoors as winter sets in.

My internal alarm clock wakes me up at 5 a.m. every day. During the warmer months, I would be gently awakened by the sunlight peeking through my blinds, and by the sweet fragrance of flowers. I would casually muddle through my morning routine. I would leisurely prepare my coffee, brush my teeth, work out and look forward to starting my day.

But, for the last few weeks I have been struggling with having restful sleep and feeling lethargic, constantly having to force myself to work out, and feeling less energized about things that typically excite me. I was having a case of the winter blues.

The Winter Blues is not a clinical diagnosis. It is a change in mood due to fewer hours of daylight. Our body’s internal alarm clock, medically referred to as our circadian rhythm, radically changes as winter approaches. The decrease in sunlight over an extended period signals to our body that it’s nighttime which leads to fatigue during the day.

During the winter we experience our shortest days in the year. The shorter days and longer nights commonly lead to vitamin D deficiency, insomnia, low energy, and weight gain. Black and brown people have higher rates of vitamin D deficiency, therefore the lack of sunshine on melanated skin can directly impact our mood. One of the ways to combat this during the darker months is to increase your vitamin intake, and to use light therapy. When you are not able to soak up natural sun rays, vitamin D, fish oil, and light therapy are smart alternatives. Direct sun exposure plays a major role in the body’s production of serotonin. The brain releases this hormone which prompts the brain to make you feel calm, happy, and focused.

Many people all over the world experience the winter blues, and the numbers for folks having winter clinically diagnosed depression is alarming, especially in Black women. Slowly I am starting to get my mojo back. I am getting restful sleep, I am squeezing in fall hikes and holiday themed activities, and I had more than enough energy to get through my day.

Tips To Help Rid You of the Winter Blues

  1. Drink coffee. The cold weather invites tension and tightness in the body. Tension in the body leads to stress. Stress increases fatigue and a depressed mood. One way to combat the cold and stay warm by drinking warm beverages, like coffee!
  2. It’s ok to not be ok. Our environment is changing. The leaves are falling and nature appears to be still. Meeting up with friends, group hikes, and Sunday brunch may begin to feel like a chore. Embrace your desire to spend more time alone. Mother Nature is creating the perfect opportunity for you to journal more, learn a new hobby, or to master some new recipes. Lean into this social shift as an opportunity to take your personal development to the next level. Some transformative practices for me have been journaling, conscience breathing, and reading.
  3. Outside is always open. Do not allow the temperature to spoil your fun. It is always a great idea to enjoy nature. It does not have to be bright and sunny to enjoy the outdoors. For example, hiking, ice fishing, skiing, and ice skating are just a few fun activities to do during the less sunny months.

Every year the colorful foliage, crisp air and pumpkin-themed drinks signal the arrival of fall. I am learning to listen to my body, and its constant changes too. It is important that I am mindful of environmental changes, and of my own. I need to feel my feelings, be introspective and embrace practices that will help me to no longer feel blue.

(The winter blues is not a clinical diagnosis, nor is seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which often has symptoms that are more debilitating and severe. It is important for people to understand the various forms of clinical depression and seek the appropriate help when necessary. If you or someone you know is experiencing clinical depression. Please encourage them to call 988. 24 hours/ 7 days a week. There are Lifesaving services and trained licensed counselors ready to provide support.)

Leniqua’dominique Jenkins holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston and has worked on Capitol Hill and in Africa, India and Spain. She is a preschool teacher at a language immersion school in Ward 7.