Health & wellbeing

As autumn is left behind and winter begins, some people start suffering from the so called “winter depression” associated with the lack of light in the Northern Circles. The amount of light is decreasing at a surprisingly fast rate and at some period sunlight is only seen for a couple of hours a day.

Fortunately, there are a few time-honored solutions to this situation that can be used to effectively combat the fatigue caused by the darkness. Of course, every human being is an individual, and not all means work for everyone. For some, exercise can help, while others can get energy from regular sleep patterns. Some may use the dark hours to play video games or spend time at online igaming sites.

Six tips for coping with winter depression

Take proper light-refueling breaks

As light begins to become scarcer in the fall and winter, you need to make a little more effort to get it. Clinical research confirms that a bright daylight bulb is an excellent option. Even half an hour with a bright light bulb helps maintain alertness, has a positive effect on mood and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.

It is also worth bringing up daylight bulbs with your employer, as acquiring such light in the workplace would pay for itself through improving work efficiency.

Equally important for the light is the rhythm of the work so that the state of alertness remains high. Avoid sitting indoors for many hours. It is advisable to take a break for a few minutes, for example every half or one hour. During a break, you can walk, stretch or just calm down.

Changing your working position throughout the day is more than recommended. If you can only find any flexibility during the working day, it would be advisable to step outside during the day, as just a couple of minutes of outing works wonders for your endurance.

Prefer regular sleep

Fatigue can never be avoided, and you can never fight it if you don't invest in quantity and quality of sleep first. A good remedy for fatigue is, above all, regular and good sleep.

So with Netflix, YouTube, phone or video games, it's not a good idea to spend time late at night, but to go to bed well in advance. It would be desirable to aim for a biological sleep window, for example try going to bed somewhere between ten and eleven. It’s also recommended to use the bed just for sleeping and to avoid taking digital devices there.

Rhythm improves by repeating the same formula over and over again. In terms of sleep,  this means going to bed and waking up at the same time as much as possible. Snoozing the alarm just delays your awake time and does not add much to the rest. It would be worthwhile to try getting rid of it with a tough discipline.

If the mornings feel particularly difficult, you can, for example, try to get a wake-up light, that will gradually increase the brightness and thus give the brain a comfortable time to anticipate waking up. That way, you’re not quite as tired when your eyes finally open.

Remember to be gracious

There is a lot of pressure in both the workplace and everyday life to get things done as quickly as possible. These rushes and pressures will only increase as Christmas and other busy times for the rest of the year begin to approach. At that point, it’s good to look at your own choices and think about whether you are demanding a little too much of yourself.

Consider your own needs for both work and leisure. Does your body need any activities, or would it be better to rest and recover? By listening to these feelings, you can then decide whether to go to the couch or to the gym. Admittedly, mere laziness is not always good, and if you always feel the need to choose a sofa, it is good to think about your daily burden and the choices you make.

In the darkest time of the year, you should also reward and pamper yourself. It’s worth making some choices every day that you know will bring you joy and pleasure. What if, instead of not doing things, you decide to do them? For example, head for a jog or cook some mulled wine and prove to yourself and others that you can’t be discouraged.

Listen to your own body and overcome your lust

When it starts to get dark, your appetite may grow. It also gets easily out of control. Is your body worth listening to? Does the body want energy from the right food, or should it be directed to walk, for example? And if you think your body really needs chocolate, for example, it’s worth considering whether it needs frequent meals per day.

It may sound a little boring, but the best tip to avoid cravings is a regular meal rhythm. When there are no terrible fluctuations in blood sugar, the sweet doesn’t occupy your mind nearly as often.

More exercise where possible

Exercise can easily manage stress and maintain your own state of alertness, even if you could imagine that exercise would make you tired and exhausted. Exercise can also be used to easily recover from a workday. During the polar night, the most difficult thing is to get yourself moving, because you only feel tired.

It’s worth thinking about what tools and means you could use to get yourself moving. A phone app, smartwatch, or activity bracelet could be worth trying. Who knows, maybe counting the number of steps and getting positive feedback can inspire you to move in a completely different way than before?

Even a small change in exercise habits helps. Half an hour of peaceful walking can bring positive results. So try to combine a small walk with lunch or walk home, for example, one bus stop farther than usual.

Exercise could be as follows:

  • A beginner should exercise for at least 2.5 hours of brisk exercise and a few times a week for muscle and / or stretching.

  • A more active person should engage in 1 hour and 15 minutes of heavier activities + a few times a week.

Although even a small amount of exercise can have some positive effects, strenuous exercise has also lots of benefits, for example, on the quality and restfulness of sleep.

Heavy exercise by no means needs to be lifting heavy weights if you don’t like that. Group classes, tennis, swimming, or any sport where your heart rate is slightly higher than usual would do.

Melatonin can also be helpful

Seven out of ten people with seasonal affective disorder or winter fatigue suffer from hypersensitivity. Three out ten in turn suffer from insomnia. These three people could benefit from melatonin, which makes the sleep-wake rhythm more regular, as long as you remember to take it at about the same time every night. There are short-acting and long-acting melatonin in stores as over-the-counter medication.

Melatonin should be taken 1-2 hours before going to bed, and preferably before midnight. It is completely individual how quickly melatonin works and how quickly its effect begins to stop. Therefore, for example, long-acting melatonin can also be tiring the next morning.