Most mothers have days when they feel low. This is perfectly normal. Looking after a baby or toddler, being constantly on call and coping with the daily demands of life is not easy. However, mothers who start to feel more lethargic than usual and perhaps socially withdrawn as the winter season draws in, could find themselves experiencing the ‘winter blues’.
The ‘winter blues’ (also known as seasonal affective disorder), affect about one in 15 adults in the UK. More women suffer from the winter blues than men although children and adolescents are also vulnerable. The winter blues are extremely rare in countries where daylight hours are long, constant and extremely bright.
The winter blues typically start in September when the nights grow longer and disappear when day length increases in April. Symptoms may include tiredness, lethargy, low concentration levels, social withdrawal, increased appetite, reduced libido and mild depression. Sufferers may also be more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses during the winter months.
If you need more sleep than usual, have difficulty in getting out of bed in the morning, find it difficult to cope with work or normal everyday tasks or suffer from any of the above symptoms, the following tips can help you get back to normal:
As darkness falls, the pineal gland (located near the centre of the brain) produces the hormone melatonin which increases the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Bright light has the opposite effect. The rise in melatonin also suppresses libido. Some scientists believe this to be an evolutionary survival response. It means that babies are more likely to be born in the spring or summer than during the coldest and most physically stressful time of the year.
Vitamin D supplements will boost the immune system and provide defence against pathogens during the winter months and promote good bone health.
A healthy diet
Some studies have found a daily intake of B vitamins to be beneficial. Whole grains, eggs, green leafy vegetables and berries are high in vitamin B. Other essential dietary requirements include omega-3 from oily fish, vegetables and nuts. Omega-3 speeds up electrochemical signalling between the brain cells and increases the ability to think clearly and retain information.
Hydration can also help to alleviate the winter blues. A two percent drop can trigger fatigue and mood changes. The recommended daily intake is between 8 and 10 tall glasses of water. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants which can keep you awake when you need to sleep.
Dark chocolate is another great food for producing a sense of wellbeing. Eating a small bar daily can improve blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which speeds up thinking, concentration and alertness. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which are vital to health.
Exercise is a great way to beat the winter blues. Evidence suggests that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week regulates the production of endorphins in the brain which alleviate stress and depression. Exercising outdoors provides a change of scenery and it increases the opportunity to meet other people.
Meeting up with other parents on a regular basis at Baby Sensory or Toddler Sense classes can be one of the best therapies for the winter blues.
Having a night out with friends or family, chatting over the telephone, networking online or talking to the neighbours can also put you in a positive, constructive frame of mind.
Relaxation and plenty of rest are important for emotional health, strength and energy. Meditation, yoga and massage therapies can be very effective ways to relieve stress.
If you don’t have the time to treat yourself to a massage or bubble bath, simply cuddling up with your baby or child, sharing a story or DVD together or listening to a favourite piece of music can help you to unwind.