Magazine article New Zealand Management

Beat the Winter Blahs: Want to Hibernate in a Warm Space with a Cache of Carbos? Kim Harvey Has a More Practical Recipe for Getting through the SAD Season

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Beat the Winter Blahs: Want to Hibernate in a Warm Space with a Cache of Carbos? Kim Harvey Has a More Practical Recipe for Getting through the SAD Season

Article excerpt

After such a long and delightful summer, winter seems to have hit with a vengeance. The evenings draw in earlier and for many of us it signals a fall in spirits and motivation.

There are fewer sunshine hours to raise the levels of serotonin or "feel good" chemicals in our brain. Instead the longer hours of dark stimulate the release of our "sleepy" drug, melatonin, making us more inclined to stay in bed longer or snuggle up on the couch rather than continue the more active pursuits of summer. All of which can cause spirits to flag.

Some people just lose their summer sparkle, while for others winter seems to trigger a serious cyclical depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

It is said that one in 25 people suffers from this kind of depression and it seems women are more than four times as likely than men to develop it.

What is the difference between "the blues or blahs" and depression?

Unlike the blues, when you might feel down for a short time, depression is a state of mind you can't just "snap out of". Typical symptoms include fatigue, sleep problems (including early morning waking), unexplained loss in appetite and feelings of worthlessness and uncontrolled sadness, but the signs of depression may vary.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR

If you suffer from serious, ongoing feelings of sadness, you should talk to your GP, whatever the time of year. You may be suffering from clinical depression--a serious condition that may require medication or counselling support to see you through to recovery.

But however winter affects you, there are ways to make the darker months of the year more bearable.

Keep eating for energy Are there times through winter when you feel like a hibernating squirrel?

You just want to eat high calorie foods like chocolate, biscuits, and chips, and nestle down on the sofa and sleep. You don't feel particularly down but equally you don't have much interest in doing anything.

Although eating stodgy foods may make you feel better for a blissful 10 minutes, a high-fat, carbohydrate-rich meal is more likely to exacerbate the winter blahs than fight them.

The vitamins, minerals and micronutrients found in a balanced diet not only keep us lean and protect our immune systems from colds and influenza, but also help to ward off depression. For example, the feel-good hormone serotonin is manufactured in our bodies from foods that contain the amino acid L-trytophan (which comes from a variety of foods including bananas and turkey). …

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