Tips for Fighting Fatigue in the Dark Days of Winter
Winters in Minnesota are dark and cold, and many of us are looking for tips to fight fatigue, enhance our moods, and stay active. We asked Amrit Devgun, Naturopathic Doctor in the Bloomington Clinic at NWHSU, for some tips.
Fatigue is a very common condition we treat at the Bloomington Clinic. That should come as no surprise. As Dr. Amrit explains, “we are an overbooked, overstimulated, overworked society.” It’s no wonder our energy levels are low. Winter is a time for slowing down, but our lives often don’t allow that.
Some people don’t just experience fatigue in the winter but struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD may include feeling sad or down, losing interest in activities, low energy, sleeping too much, and having difficulty concentrating. The specific cause is unknown, but some things that contribute are your biological clock (circadian rhythm), serotonin levels, and melatonin levels.
If you’re feeling down most days, can’t get motivated to do activities, or feel hopeless, it’s important to see your health care provider. But when you’re fatigued or just having a few days of the winter blues, there are some things you can do to help you wake up, boost your mood, and feel better.
1. Make a Routine, and Stick to It
As the days get shorter, darker, and colder, most people find it harder to wake up earlier. As tempting as it is to stay in bed a little longer, try to maintain routine in your sleep cycle. Wake up by six a.m. and go to bed by ten p.m. Changing wake up and bedtime by just 15 minutes per week can help you achieve that routine.
2. Start Your Day with Light
Expose yourself to at least five to ten minutes of natural light when you wake up. This might mean going for a quick walk in your PJs, turning on your bedside lamp (ideally full spectrum light box) as you hit snooze, or enjoying your hot morning drink by the window. Any of these options will help prime your circadian rhythm for the day.
3. Use Food as Medicine
In the winter, skip salads and focus on cooked seasonal root vegetables. The key to winter eating and drinking is warmth and heat. Avoid iced or cold beverages, instead enjoy herbal tea. Earlier dinners are also a good idea in the winters.
4. Check Your Vitamin D Levels (and Get Moving!)
Some people need more vitamin D in the winter to help with moods. Work with a healthcare provider and check your vitamin D levels before supplementing. Exercise can help lift moods and keep us warm! It also counteracts the heaviness we can feel deeper into the winter.
5. Spend Time Doing Your Favorite Cozy Things
Stay connected with family and friends, or if you like your own space, curl up under a blanket after dinner and catch up on reading.
Regular care from your naturopath, acupuncturist, or massage therapist can also help with the fatigue and sad mood winter can bring.