Most mornings lately, I've been tired. Not just sleepy—bone-weary tired. There are a million things I could blame, from a hectic family/work schedule to chronically interrupted sleep (2- and 5-year-olds do not sleep very soundly). In the haze, it's hard to know what it is I really need. More vitamins? Better exercise? It occurred to me this morning, as I turned up the hot water in the shower for an extra "blast," that I am simply out of step with the season. Despite the fact that we don't burrow in mud- and leaf-lined caves and sleep all winter, humans are meant to slow down and rest more in the colder/darker months. And lately I have been expecting myself to do everything as if it were still mid summer with bountiful sunlight and tons of social energy. So when Michael Finkelstein, M.D., got in touch to offer these simple tips for staving off the winter blues, I took note. Dr. Finkelstein has pioneered the idea of "skillful living" and hosts a weekly national radio show, The Skillful Living Room, that can be heard every Saturday on Business TalkRadio. I especially like the third tip. (Let us know by posting a comment below: How do you honor your body and mind this season?)
Problem: A full plate, figuratively
Solution: Take small moments to decompress in between family engagements, dinners with friends, travel for work and the kids’ piano recitals, to give your body and mind a chance to relax and get you back on track. Be sure to process your surroundings, whether it’s in the form of a brief digital diary entry or tweet, or short meditation or prayer.
Problem: A full plate, literally
Solution: If you pace yourself and practice a reasonable amount of self control throughout the year, you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in the colder months. Our bodies are naturally inclined to gain an extra couple of pounds in the winter to insulate us…just don’t make a habit out of decadent five-course meals or heavy drinking all year round.
Problem: The guilt factor
Solution: Winter is a time of rest, so don’t expect yourself to do as much physically as you would during the other seasons. This is especially important because guilt induces a response in your brain which releases coritsol, a hormone that alters your metabolism and in turn causes you to store fat. Through breathing exercises, rest and talking things out with your friends and loved-ones, you can reduce the pressure of sky-high expectations while still holding yourself to a strong and realistic standard.