Coping with Winter Funk
It goes by a lot of names but the clinical one is S.A.D. (Seasonal Affect Disorder), I like to call it the “Winter Funk”. Some people love seasons, the winter, the cold weather, and snow, but not me. From my Facebook posts lately, you have seen that I get the winter blues. With the first rains and gray weather I find my motivation and energy levels plummet. I find it harder to get things done, harder to get excited about things, and the stream of exciting new ideas I usually have dries up. Its nowhere near depression but its not peak performance either.
If you have true depression, you need to seek medical help. Here are some signs of depression:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and low energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Sleep changes – Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Eating changes – overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide
Number two above is the only one I suffer from, its just the winter blues – aka SAD. Here are some things that I have found help a lot to get me thru. Some are real and some are mental tricks.
- Good Nutrition. Nutrition is even more important than during the summer because I am doing less cardio. Eating bad makes me feel bad which makes it less likely I will exercise and more likely I will continue to eat bad. Conversely, eating lots of fresh vegetables, legumes, and whole grains makes me feel good and keeps me ripped which gives positive reinforcement for continued good eating and working out. Even though my weight workouts are not quite as intense in the winter, I am even more strict so that I keep my motivation levels up. Don’t let the downward spril get started!
- Daily cardio. Important all the time but even MORE important in winter than at any other time. Daily exercise has been proven to improve mood and in the wintertime many of us really, really need this boost! Get exercise *every* day. It can be weights, cardio, or better yet, BOTH!
- Plan a trip. If you can, plan something halfway thru the winter that you will really look forward to and want to look your best for. How about a January beach trip to South Florida? Gives your workouts, nutrition, and cardio a definite goal.
- Keep a good outlook. Remember that after December 21st, every day gets longer and springtime is right around the corner. After I make it to December 21st I am home free and my attitude and energy levels rebound just by realizing each subsequent day has more daylight than the previous one. A mental trick but it works wonders for me.
- Take solace in small accomplishments. Make a todo list Saturday morning and give yourself a big “atta-boy” for everything you are able to cross off no matter how small. Progress is progress.
- Light therapy. They make really expensive light therapy devices, personally I’m not convinced they work any better than my $10 setup. I use two tungsten photo bulbs (500W each) and screw them into a socket with cord from the hardware store (about $3). Early in the morning when I am working or late at night I turn them on for an hour or so and it feels great.
- Get warm. When I lived in Munich for two years, I spent a lot of time at the indoor pool in wintertime. The city had an awesome indoor olympic pool (U3 Olymipazentrum) where I would swim laps then lay out by the pool afterward. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine it was summer even though there was snow on the ground outside. It did wonders for my mood. Unfortunately, we dont have any facilities like that within 500 miles of where I live.
- Negative Air Ionization. I personally have never used this but apparently it can help.