Archive for Take Care of Yourself

During the winter months the sun’s rays weaken. The days get shorter. Often the sky is cloudier, too. These short, gray, days can have an adverse effect on our physical and mental health. It’s a time when many people suffer from SAD and the winter blues. Light therapy can be the answer.

What Is Light Therapy?

Light therapy is a process of exposing your body to light on a regular basis. For some time scientists didn’t understand why light affected people. However, the presence of SAD and winter depression indicated that light was very important to many people. Over the past few years the medical community has learned about vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight triggers your body to create vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for physical and mental health.

Our bodies are also reliant on circadian rhythms. This is your body’s natural response to light and dark. When it’s dark, your body is triggered through the release of hormones to sleep. When it’s light, you wake. However, many people’s bodies struggle with hormonal balance during the winter months. Light therapy helps balance hormones and strengthens those circadian rhythms.

How to Find Light Therapy

Light therapy can be accomplished in a number of ways. The most basic way is to make sure you get twenty to thirty minutes of sunshine each day. However, if the sun isn’t shining then that can be a challenge.

Another option is to purchase or make a light box. They’re available on many home goods websites, medical websites and even in your local big box store. For example, you can buy a Philips Light Therapy box on Amazon for around $130 dollars.

You can also purchase full spectrum light bulbs and use them in a lamp at home. The key, however, is to make sure you use them every day. Expose yourself to full spectrum light for thirty minutes minimum. Full spectrum lighting is about half as strong as the sun’s rays.

You can also purchase a handy tool called a dawn simulator. This ‘alarm clock’ gradually lightens your room to simulate morning. If you struggle to wake when it’s dark outside, you may benefit from this device.

Your doctor can also prescribe light therapy which can be done inpatient in some cases, or you can take a light box home. If your insurance covers it, you can save some money.

Using Light Therapy

Use your light box or light therapy daily. Some experts recommend placing the light above your head, like the sun. If you’re unsure, read the directions or ask your doctor. Most light boxes are designed to sit on a table.

Make light therapy part of your daily routine. For example, sit at the table during lunchtime or breakfast with the light box on. If possible, begin using it before the winter depression or sadness hits. Be proactive.

Light plays an important role in the body’s physical and mental wellbeing. If you struggle with sadness and depression, consider purchasing a light box or making one yourself. A basic box ranges in price from $40 to $200 and they’re readily available. Your mental health is worth it!

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Scientists and the medical community have found a definitive link between sleep and depression. During the winter months when depression is prevalent, it’s even more important to get quality sleep. If you’re struggling with the winter blues, simply modifying your sleeping habits can make a world of difference.

The Sleep and Depression Link

There’s actually a cyclical link between sleep and depression. Depression itself causes poor sleep. And poor sleep causes depression. It can be a vicious circle. The link is actually hormonal. When you sleep your body produces hormones that improve your physical and mental health. When you don’t get enough of these hormones, the imbalance can cause symptoms of depression.

Additionally, depression can have an adverse effect on your body’s ability to produce these hormones, thus making it very difficult to sleep. The hormones in question are serotonin and melatonin.

Getting Better Sleep

If your depression is severe, consider seeking help from your doctor. Your physician can prescribe a sleep aid to get the ball rolling. However, it’s important to use the sleep aid to set the stage for quality sleep. You don’t want to become dependent on it. Use the sleep aid to create good sleep habits. Once you’ve had a few nights of good sleep you can continue with the habits and eliminate the medication.

Good sleep habits include:

* Do not eat or drink before bed.

* Do not watch television in your bedroom.

* Do not engage with electronic devices in your bedroom before sleep – put the Blackberry away.

* Meditate or journal before sleep. Engage in calming activities.

* Do not exercise before bed.

* Create a routine. For example, brush your teeth and wash your face. Get into your pajamas and then journal for five to ten minutes. Close the journal. Turn off the lights and go to sleep.

* Try not to worry about sleep. The more you worry, the more difficult it will be to fall asleep.

* Do not drink alcohol before you go to bed. In fact, try to eliminate alcoholic beverages from your day until your depression issue is under control.

* Keep your bedroom dedicated to sleep. Don’t have your home office, exercise equipment, children or pets in your room. Your sleep is too important.

* Also surround yourself with comfort. Find a good pillow. Buy sheets and blankets that make you feel good.

* Avoid stimulants in the afternoon and evenings. Don’t eat chocolate or drink caffeine.

* Finally, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. You’re training your body to sleep.

Good sleep may take some time. However, when you embrace good sleeping habits you can achieve mental health and wellbeing. Take care of your body – sleep is important. If you’re unable to resolve your insomnia after a few weeks, seek the assistance of a medical professional. Your health is too important.

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Foods to Beat Winter Blues

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The sky gets darker. The days get shorter. It’s cold outside and you’re cooped up. It’s no wonder that so many people suffer from the winter blues. Worse, when you’re cooped up inside and feeling down, you may turn to foods that simply don’t help. The good news is that there are tasty foods that can help you beat the winter blues.

Vitamins and Nutrients to Look For

When you’re at the supermarket and looking at your options, choose foods that contain:

* Vitamin D – Vitamin D has been shown to prevent and reduce depression in some individuals. A deficiency in this vitamin is also linked to a number of illnesses and conditions including diabetes.

* Vitamin B – the vitamin B complex helps your body manage stress optimally. It also boosts your immune system.

* Folate – Folic acid helps regulate your blood flow. It also assists with sleep. Better sleep means a better ability to manage stress and control emotions. It means better physical and mental health.

* Omega Fatty Acids – Fatty acids reduce inflammation in your body and your brain. Studies have shown that people who experience winter depression are often low in omega fatty acids.

* Protein – Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels even. This means consistent energy throughout the day. Try to eat protein at every meal.

Foods to Add to Your Winter Shopping Cart

* Salmon – Salmon is rich in vitamin D and omega fatty acids. It’s also protein. And salmon isn’t the only fish that contains these blues-busting nutrients. Mackerel and other cold-water fish do too. If you don’t like fish, eat plenty of nuts and seeds. They’re rich in protein.

* Lentils and legumes – Lentils are rich in folate. They also have a number of B vitamins which help you manage stress.

* Brown rice – Brown rice is packed with B vitamins and it’s a great source of fiber. It’ll keep your body feeling full and your blood sugar even.

* Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale – Dark leafy greens contain a multitude of vitamins. They’re also a good source of fiber. Try to include at least one serving of dark leafy greens every day.

Also consider:

* Dark chocolate
* Vitamin D enriched milk or soymilk
* Whole grain enriched breakfast cereals
* Green tea

Steer clear of a diet that contains a lot of starchy carbs, white flour and sugar. These can cause inflammation, blood sugar spikes and low energy. Take care of your body and your mind this winter. Beat the blues by providing your body with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy. Plan ahead and pack your cupboards and refrigerator with blues-busting foods this winter.

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