“Here Comes the Sun”
Are the short dark days getting you down? Do you find that you have less energy than usual? Are you feeling depressed? Are you craving carbohydrates and junk food? Are you sleeping more and having a hard time getting up in the morning?
It could be winter blues, postpartum depression, or, just a new mom having a bad day!
The “winter blues” are not just a myth. It is also known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), and it is an actual medical condition. The definition is: A history of depression that is seasonal in nature, affecting mostly women during the winter months, who live in colder and darker climates. The symptoms typically begin in the fall, peak in midwinter, and subside in the spring. The exact cause is unknown, however, there are some contributing factors, such as a seasonal change of light, which can affect your internal circadian rhythm, and the secretion of the hormone melatonin. Genetics, a poor diet and a lack of exercise can also be contributing factors. The intensity, exact timing, and resolution of winter blues can vary, and may depend on where you live.
Life is hard enough with a new baby. Fluctuating hormones, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation can be difficult to deal with. When you add in winter, it can become that much harder. Getting to the store, doing errands, getting out of the house during the day, especially when the days are so short, can be an almost impossible task, and cabin fever can set in very quickly.
Tips for new moms to beat the winter blues:
-Keep your circadian rhythm in check by trying to get outside during daylight, and be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. At least 20 minutes outside can stimulate the production of vitamin D, and increase serotonin, which is your feel good hormone in your brain. If it’s too cold to take the baby out, then you can sit by a well lit window, or wait until you have someone to babysit so that you can get out a little bit while it is still light. Take walks outside, and keep your home well lit with lamps and bright lights.
-Take your baby to the mall and walk around, or sit in a café or Starbucks and strike up a conversation with another new mom. You would be surprised how much other new moms are also craving company, and how much you have in common!
-Take vitamin D-3, and Omega-3 supplements, both will boost your mood when you are not getting enough sunlight.
-Exercise-if you can get the gym or take a class once or twice a week that would be ideal. If you can’t get out to the gym, you can try a class online. There are many YouTube videos where you can view a full exercise or yoga class for free. Purchase an exercise DVD, or if you have exercise equipment in your home, use it.
-Healthy diet-make sure you eat lots of protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy whole grain carbohydrates.
-Stay hydrated- you can replace cold water with warm drinks such as herbal teas with honey, or warm water with lemon juice. Make sure you drink as much as you did during the warmer months.
-Stay connected with friends, and family. Try and make plans for days when you are alone with your baby.
-Bright light therapy- a light box will help regulate your circadian rhythm and lift depressive symptoms. It can boost your mood and energy by mimicking the effects of the sun. You need to sit by the light for 30 minutes or longer. Light boxes are available online, on amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
-Seek out the help of a therapist or a support group.
-If symptoms are severe enough you might need some medication to help get you through the winter.
-Most important-be good to yourself, lower your expectations and please don’t beat yourself up for feeling down. You are not alone and there are many others out there who are going through the same thing.
Whether you have the winter blues, postpartum depression, or both, take care of yourself, and reach out for the help that you need.