Just a reminder that if you are at least 75 years of age, you can call the McMinn County Health Department at 423-745-7431 to make an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccination. Be watching for other age groups to become eligible.
Don’t forget to pick up your food boxes this Friday from 10 a.m. until noon. Besides the box of frozen food, you will be receiving a box of shelf stable food in case we can’t distribute food one week because of the weather. You will also be given a packet to celebrate Hot Tea Month and information how hot tea can improve your health.
Last week, I wrote about how cold weather can be good for you. One of the ways it can be good is that the cold temperatures can help you overcome mental habits and think outside the box. But some of us may still feel a little blue this time of the year. This is not to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes someone to go into a depression during a certain season. SAD usually needs to be treated by a professional.
If the colder weather and shorter days are causing you to feel the winter blues, you are not alone. It is not uncommon this time of year to experience fatigue, sadness, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation and a disruption in your sleep schedule. For most, this mood change is temporary and can be easily managed with lifestyle modifications.
We are talking about just a feeling of down in the dumps. That is not surprising considering the need to stay at home as much as possible because of the pandemic. If you are feeling a little blue, which is completely normal, maybe some of these ideas will help you improve that mood:
• Start your day off with a steamy shower. An increase in body temperature prods the brain to release serotonin, according to a survey by the University of Colorado. You can also add a few drops orange essential oil to a washcloth and place it on the shower floor. The scent can cut the risk of blue moods by 50%. Another reason I like to take a steamy shower in the morning is that it helps with my stiffness. I turn the water on as hot as I can take it and let it run across my back. This brings blood to the area which can penetrate deep into the muscular tissue helping to relieve pain. This really works for me. It is supposed to be more helpful than taking Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen. It is easier to enjoy the day without having back pain.
• If you know me, you already know that I like to turn my radio up in the kitchen when I am cooking and sing along. Canadian scientists say that the opposite delivers a lift to your mood. They found that an hour of soothing background music, such as classical music by Bach or Mozart, elevates mood and stamina by 55% in 72 hours. Calming music spurs the release of serotonin, which not only shakes off the blues, but encourages the thyroid to churn out revitalizing hormones.
• Can you believe biting into a cheeseburger can make you happy? Of course it can, but for another reason. Australian researchers who found women who enjoyed 14 ounces of beef weekly slashed their risk of seasonal blues in half. That is because high quality beef has the ideal mix of protein and fats to boost the production of serotonin. What about those fries? Research shows their carbs help convert meat’s tryptophan into serotonin for an added pick-me-up.
• Take a break from the news. I sometime find myself glued to the TV to watch the events unfolding. The news has not been all positive lately. You do need to stay abreast of the news about COVID-19, but try to limit your screen time to one hour each day. You can watch this in one sitting or break it up into chunks.
• Another simple change to boost your mood is to consider the food you eat. Consuming protein with breakfast, lunch, and dinner can enhance mood and prevent sugar and carb cravings later in the day. Besides the cheeseburger, eat lean chicken, eggs and other foods high in protein. Also, including foods high in vitamin D such as fatty fish, fish oil, and vitamin D fortified foods like milk, orange juice, cereal, yogurt, and other food sources can help balance mood.
• Keep you sleep routine. Sleep is a huge component of mood. Without adequate, regular sleep, our circadian rhythm can get disrupted, which also disrupts our cortisol, rhythms and impacts hormone production. Here are a few tips to improve your sleep: Go to bed and wake up at the same time, follow a simple bedtime routine that signals rest, such as taking a bath, turning down the lights, or drinking a cup of herbal tea; expose yourself to light as soon as you wake up; sleep in a cool dark room; don’t use electronics in your room; write down all of your worry thoughts on a piece of paper before bed so that, if you wake up in the night, you can tell your mind you don’t need to worry because the thoughts are captured on paper and will be waiting for you to tackle in the morning.
• Do some physical activity. Physical activity has been shown to boost mood, decrease the symptoms of depression, and reduce stress. Start slowly and build up to 30-60 minutes a day, five days a week, of aerobic exercise, strength training, yoga, or other fitness-related activities.
• Try the 10x10x10 rule. It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, lethargic, and unmotivated to exercise when feeling depressed. Instead of committing to one longer workout, break the time up into chunks. For example, if your goal is to walk 30 minutes a day, divide the time into three mini-workouts of 10 minutes each. One walk in the morning, another in the early afternoon, and one before it gets dark would be a good way to start.
• Seek out human contact. This is an awesome time to stay in touch with your family and friends. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that human contact and socialization is important to our mental health. Find a way to safely stay in touch with supportive people. This may include taking walks outdoors, talking on the phone, or virtual sessions.
• Get outside. Being in the sunshine just makes you feel better. It helps to balance serotonin activity, increases melatonin production, and increases your vitamin D levels, which can lead to an improved emotional state. If you are not able to get outdoors, move a chair, workstation, or kitchen table next to a window that gets sunlight. Aim to sit in this location for at least one to two hours a day. If one sitting is not possible, break the time into shorter chunks throughout the daytime hours.
Hopefully by following some of these helpful suggestions, you will be able to get through this winter with more ease. One thing that helps me is just knowing that springtime is just a few weeks away. I can’t wait!
Sue Walker is the executive director of the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center. She may be reached by calling 423-781-7632.