It has been quite the stress and anxiety-inducing week. I hope you are taking care of yourselves with good sleep, nutrition, and drinking lots of water. Before you continue through this email, let’s take a moment to become present.
Take a deep breathe in for 1, 2, 3, 4…
And a deep breathe out for 4, 3, 2, 1…
Close your eyes and repeat 3 times.
Ah, okay. Let’s proceed.
Last week we gained an hour back in our days but lost an hour of sunlight. Although I really enjoy the extra hour of sunshine in the mornings, the evenings are progressively difficult as we lose daylight ~5pm.
Our minds and bodies depend on sunlight for Vitamin D, and when those levels drop it can have a real toll on our mental health. This week I’m highlighting the realities of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and some tips on how to manage it if you are struggling.
It’s a common misconception that SAD stems from the cold weather in the winter, but in reality it’s derived from the lack of sunlight. It doesn’t matter if you live in California or Wisconsin, you could be impacted by SAD in the same manner. SAD affects ~10 million Americans every year, it is more prominent in women than men, and to no surprise, is most common in the winter months.
Mental Health Tip:
These are a few of my recommendations for how to manage seasonal affective disorder. Please note: my recommendations do not substitute for a medical consultation.
- Invest in a light therapy device
You may have heard these referred to as “happy lamps” but the science behind them proves effective. Light therapy devices do not provide Vitamin D, Vitamin D is passed from sunlight into our skin, but they do transfer light through our eyes. The bright light positively impacts the body’s level of melatonin (regulating normal sleep routine) and serotonin (helps with overall mood).
The Verilux light has great reviews on Amazon and is a good, portable size. If you do purchase a light device, be sure it powers 10,000 lux.
For best results, keep the light at a 45 degree angle facing towards you for ~20 minutes starting in the morning or around noon. You do not want the full light to be shining on you, and you should not make direct eye contact either. You can read, eat or work under the light, but your eyes need to be open for the full effect to occur (can’t be used while sleeping). Response typically starts in a few days, and after 2 weeks of routine-use you should notice a difference.
- Check your level of Vitamin D
Our bodies depend on Vitamin D from the sunlight to absorb phosphate and calcium in our diets, but in the winter time our Vitamin D levels can run rampant. Especially in the winter, it’s important to understand where your levels stand and how to manage them effectively with alternate methods (if needed) – supplements and food.
You can schedule a blood panel with your physician and ask for your Vitamin D level to be checked. Levels will vary by person depending on height, weight, and age; your physician will be able to recommend next steps.
Vitamin D supplements are a good way to offset the lack of sunlight in winter months. When researching different brands, look for options with ~2000 IU for best results in the winter, although if your levels are low, your doctor may recommend doses closer to 5000 IU a day, or even a megadose of 10,000+ IU.
Oily fish, eggs, and mushrooms are also great sources of Vitamin D.
- Exercise Routine
It’s natural for our bodies to want to start shutting down in hibernation-mode once the sun sets. It is super important that we don’t dramatically adjust our daily routine, and keep ourselves moving.
With exercise, it’s not necessary to dramatically shift either. No need to start breaking personal records or pushing yourself beyond the limits, but when you do feel yourself falling into that ‘slump’ mode, go for a walk or jog. If your streets are not well-lit, or you don’t feel comfortable walking in the dark, you can go to a grocery store, Target, etc. to get a few extra steps in.
This week’s journal prompt is to write down your self-care plan for the next month. With all the communal stress happening in the world, what are you going to do to take care of yourself? Here are a few examples:
- Planning meals ahead of time so I don’t have to stress with grocery and cooking during the week
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual, and not look at my phone before bed
- Coordinate a Zoom Thanksgiving call with my family
Here is the light therapy lamp I recommend.
Here are the Vitamin D supplements that I recommend (as I said, anything over 2000 IU will do).
And if you’re in need of some healthy recipes, you can catch up with my 30-day New Food Challenge videos here:
Day 11 – Sauteed Mustard Greens