>> Have you experienced it before? The low energy, irritable mood, no desire to get out of bed, which usually occurs around this time of year? The Winter Blues, more formally known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a common and legitimate issue in climates that experience cold weather and limited sunshine. Even people who maintain optimal mental health all year can experience this seasonal form of depression. For truck drivers, this can worsen the effects of stress and loneliness they often experience on the road.
>> Fortunately, there are several things we can do to lessen the symptoms and feel more like our usual selves.
>> Limited sunlight exposure in the winter months means our bodies aren’t producing enough Vitamin D; this can cause our immune system, energy level, and mood to drop, contributing to SAD. Supplementing with 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 is a great way for adults to keep their levels in check. Additionally, eat foods rich in Vitamin D, such as egg yolks, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), and liver. If you’re a long haul driver and drive south in the winter, be sure to get a little sun exposure (~10 minutes) each day that you can to let your body produce some Vit D naturally!
>> Beyond just Vitamin D, overall good nutrition plays a critical role in both our physical health and mental health. This means getting a wide variety of whole foods, including colourful produce, unprocessed meats, healthy fats (think nuts, seeds, avocados, fish), and of course plenty of water. If you think your diet is lacking in variety, consider a high quality multivitamin to fill any nutrient gaps.
>> Light therapy is a great option for reducing SAD symptoms as daylight is limited during the winter months. Light therapy is available in many different versions, including light boxes, special light bulbs, and alarm clocks that simulate the sunrise (making it easier to get out of bed when it’s dark out).
>> Spend time outdoors to get fresh air, which can help reduce stress, boost mood, improve sleep, increase oxygen levels, and more. Even if it’s chilly, bundle up and head out for some deep, cleansing breaths! If you’re in the sunlight, you’ll get a boost of Vitamin D too!
>> Exercise helps to boost the “feel good” hormones and other chemicals in our bodies, such as endorphins and serotonin. Exercise also helps improve sleep and energy levels.Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 30 minutes 5x/week. Bonus if it’s outside! Are you seeing how all of these are connected?
>> Comedy helps to lift our spirits and lessen our stress levels, and is a fun, simple way to help relieve SAD symptoms. Unwind with 30 minutes of a funny book, show, or even YouTube videos! You’ll instantly feel refreshed and more positive. Avoid negative news, shows, movies, and articles when possible to prevent them from unnecessarily weighing down your mood.
>> If at any time your SAD symptoms or mental health become serious or unmanageable, contact your doctor or local mental health center as soon as possible. If you need immediate assistance, go to your nearest hospital or call 911.
Nutritionist & Health Coach Healthy Trucker