Increase Your Energy This Winter!

increase your energy this winterWinter, for many people, means driving both to and from work each day in the dark. The short days and cold dreary weather can zap your energy and leave you longing to hibernate until spring. It’s crucial to take care of yourself this time of year so you can stay healthy and maintain your energy and sense of well-being. Here’s what you can do to increase your energy this winter:

1. Let the light in.

Exposure to sunlight is an important factor in the regulation of your body’s circadian rhythm. Reduced sunlight causes your brain to release melatonin, which makes you sleepy. This may work just fine when the sun sets at 8 or 9 PM in the summer; but when the sun goes down at 5, it can be a problem. Also, with colder temperatures, we stay indoors more, allowing even less exposure to the sun. Energize your day by making a conscious effort to get some sunshine. Open your curtains to let more sunlight into your home, and get outdoors as much as the weather will allow. Even sitting next to a sunny window can help.

2. Be physically active.

It sounds counter-intuitive – using energy exercising when you are tired and just want to sleep – but regular moderate exercise will actually give you more energy throughout the day. Just getting the blood flowing can help fight feelings of fatigue. You don’t need to hit it hard in the gym every day. A simple 30 minute walk is all it takes. Even if exercise is the last thing you feel like doing, at least commit to 5 or 10 minutes. You are almost guaranteed to feel better once you get moving.

3. Get a good night’s sleep.

Getting enough sleep is important year round, but it’s crucial for maintaining energy levels during the winter. Aim for 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night. It may be tempting to go into hibernation mode and sleep longer, but this will actually make you more lethargic throughout the day. If you struggle with getting the right amount of sleep, try practicing good sleep habits such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and avoiding TV/phone/tablet/laptop screens within an hour of bedtime.

4. Eat a healthful diet.

While it’s true that food gives our bodies energy, the wrong types of foods can leave us feeling sluggish. Foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates cause blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving us feeling hungry, tired, and craving more sugar. Make sure your diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Keep processed foods to a minimum.

5. Manage stress.

Stress is one of the biggest energy killers. Chronic stress, when unchecked, often leads to unhealthy habits. When we are stressed, sleep suffers, we eat more junk food, we stop exercising, and we may turn to other unhealthy coping mechanisms. While we may not be able to eliminate stress, we can work on managing it. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, doing yoga, listening to music, reading or spending time with pets or loved ones. Taking time to relax and de-stress on a regular basis can give you more energy to deal the things life throws at you.

6. Check in with your healthcare provider.

If, despite doing all of these things, you are still plagued by excessive tiredness; or if your tiredness is keeping you from going about your normal life, you should talk with your healthcare provider. There may be an underlying medical condition such as chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, an infection, or depression.

Sarah Wood, the author of this article, is available to speak to groups or hold classes on a variety of health-related topics such as nutrition, physical activity, healthy cooking, stress management, and wellness. To schedule an event or get more information, call 816-279-1691 or email woodsarah@missouri.edu.

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Sarah Wood is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Applied Health Sciences. Currently, she is a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. When taking time for herself, she runs, travels, and creates art.

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