This is a guest post from the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, Janai Meyer, Karla Gelhar, and Brittany Pope.
With winter on its way to Ketchikan, we should start thinking about how we can take care of our mental and physical health through what can be a challenging season. Symptoms of the ‘Winter Blues’ can include difficulty waking up, irritability, fatigue, craving carbs, sadness, low libido and general apathy. So, what can you do to minimize the impacts of our dark winters? In today’s column, three professionals share ideas to help you “beat the winter blues!”
Check your Vitamin D intake
Vitamin D is more than just a sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, keeps bones strong, helps with immune function and there’s hope that it may also help protect against certain cancers, muscular weakness and falling, and heart disease. Supporting your Vitamin D levels by food, sun and supplements during the winter months can help your overall health, energy and wellness.
There are two types of vitamin D, D2 and D3. Your skin produces vitamin D3 when you spend time in the sun (liquid sunshine doesn’t count). Good dietary sources of Vitamin D2 include: mushrooms, fatty fish (salmon!), milk or orange juice that’s been fortified with Vitamin D, eggs and butter. If you are taking a supplement, make sure it is a D3 source which is better at improving your vitamin D status. Ideal dose varies from person to person, check with your health provider and if you’re a vegetarian, make sure your Vitamin D source is labeled vegan.
If you have questions, contact your health provider or reach out to me!
Janai Meyer RDN, LD, IBCLC
Get the Most out of a “Happy Light”
When we don’t get enough sunlight it can affect our body and mood. Medical grade light therapy is proven to help the symptoms of the winter blues by helping our internal “circadian” clock know when it is time to wake up and be alert as well as when to rest.
Look for a light that has 10,000 LUX, this ensures the light can effectively impact your internal clock and wake you up. Within the first 2 hours of waking, set it 24 inches away for 20 minutes. Our family’s light is the size of a carry-on suitcase and super bright. It sits on the dining room table and is on for 20 mins during breakfast and our morning routine. I joke that it is my quick trip to Arizona in the morning! It helps me feel alert and ready for the day.
Karla Gelhar, LMFT
Winter blues and darkness in Alaska can make it hard to get motivated and establish a healthy workout routine. It’s easier to get motivated when the sun is shining and harder when the winter months arrive in Ketchikan. According to the Mayo Clinic (2017), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the season. SAD does not typically cause depression in the spring and summer. Research shows that incorporating exercise into your winter routine is a key component in fighting SAD and the winter blues.
Here are a few healthy ideas to help boost your exercise routine in the winter months even when darkness may affect your motivation.
- Take a walk around the block or if you prefer indoors- go to the recreation center or inside the plaza mall.
- When you wake up, stretch! Use 5 to 10 minutes of your morning to do simple stretches to move your body and warm it up before you start your day.
- If you prefer group fitness— check out your local recreation center’s website or small gym near you for classes like: Pilates, weight lifting, yoga, or spinning.
- If you find it hard to hold yourself accountable you can create a workout accountability partner by talking to a friend who can help keep you on your new healthy routine!
An active lifestyle is critical all year round and an important component of optimal health. Here are just a few things that fitness can provide you, especially in the winter months:
- Warms up your body and muscles during the cold winter months.
- Can strengthen your immune system
- Energizes your mind and body
- Releases mood-lifting chemicals called endorphins which help lower your stress and increase your mood.
It is important to consult your doctor before trying anything in this article as your healthcare professional is knowledgeable about your specific needs.
Brittany Pope, LPC, MRC, CRC
Healthy Minds is a monthly column coordinated by Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as a way to share positive stories from people living with mental illness, offer information from local mental health professionals about maintaining mental health in your life, and provide details on tangible activities or actions you can take to strengthen your mental wellness. If you would like to contribute to the column, please contact Romanda Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org