"Merry & Bright" are words that are often used to describe the holiday season, but with shorter days, longer nights, & less sunlight, they don't always feel that way. During the winter, you've probably noticed a change in your energy levels, mood, digestion, skin, & more. For some women, this time of year feels especially challenging for their mental health... According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are 4x more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder than men. Researchers believe that the higher rates of SAD in women is due to the fact that low Vitamin D can deplete estradiol-- which is the kind of estrogen that we make as women with menstrual cycles. It's the most potent form of estrogen there is, & it's neuroprotective (meaning it's good & protective of brain health!)
Specifically as we approach ovulation, estradiol increases, which increases our serotonin levels.
With potentially less Vitamin D & less estradiol, women are more susceptible to low mood, depression, anxiety, fatigue, poor sleep, insomnia, & lack of motivation-- then sprinkle in high expectations, alcohol consumption, self-medicating with more caffeine & sugar, & burnout, & we have a recipe for holiday break downs. Although men also make estradiol & can have SAD, they make relatively the same amount per day. For women, the amount we make greatly varies depending on the time in our cycles.
If you're dealing with SAD, “the winter blues,” or struggling with your cycle more this time of year, know that you're not alone & it's not your fault. Just as I teach my clients to adapt & sync their wellness routine to the changes of their hormonal cycles, you can also adapt your wellness routine to the seasons. How you feel now is inevitably different than Spring, Fall, & Summer, so here are a few tips to get you started on "winterizing" your wellness routine:
1) Check your Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is part vitamin, part hormone. Your body makes Vitamin D after sun exposure, then it's activated by the liver & kidneys. Then, the active form regulates calcium in the body. Make an appointment with your provider or order this Micronutrient Test from Let's Get Checked to check your Vitamin D, B12 (important for energy), Vitamin E (important for inflammation), magnesium (important for stress management & recovery, & more! The code ASGHEALTH at checkout gets you 25% off for being a reader of this blog. Vitamin D3 can be supplemented with K2 & foods like salmon, cod liver oil, tuna, sardines, beef liver, & egg yolk are sources of Vitamin D.
2) Keep Your Belly & Pelvic Area Warm
It's time to step away from the crop tops & frozen smoothies!
When the temperatures drop, everything in nature slows down. Blood vessels can constrict & digestion can slow down, leading to an increased chance of menstrual cramps, bloating, & constipation. Layer your clothing & consider undershirts or leggings as your bottom layer. Warm, cooked foods are easier to digest than raw or cold foods.
Start your morning with warm lemon water with ground ginger added in, giving you a dose of hydration, Vitamin C, & anti-inflammatory spice. Soups, stews, broth, roasts, & hot teas are all seasonal staples that you can enjoy daily. If you're getting dry, flaky skin, up your healthy fats, like fish, drizzles of olive oil nuts, & seeds, & see your esthetician about topical products to protect your skin barrier.
3) Eat More During The Day
Have you found yourself struggling to maintain energy during the day, even when it isn't dark out yet?
As the darks get shorter & darker, you might find yourself struggling with fatigue. The circadian rhythm impacts your hormones, including your metabolism. During these cold, dark months, one way to work with your body instead of against it is by prioritizing feeding your body during the day. Your metabolism uses calories as energy, helping you do more during the day & final a natural state of rest at night. Don't skip breakfast or lunch, keep snacks on hand, & stay hydrated even when it's cold. I also prefer to have dinner earlier in the winter months. If I'm going to be busy in the later afternoon, I make sure it's ready to go by using a slow cooker or enjoying leftovers that I can easily reheat in my air fryer.
4) Make Time for Community Care
Gathering is an integral part of the season, but sometimes it feels shallow & obligatory or like too much of an effort. Who are some people in your life that give you energy just by being around them?
Spending quality time with others boosts oxytocin, which reduces anxiety. As much as it can be nice to have self-care or cozy up alone with your favorite book or Christmas movie, make sure that you're getting out, moving your body, & connecting. Schedule a yoga or group fitness class, invite a friend over for dinner, meet up for lunch, & check on your friends who also may be struggling during this time.