Well, here it comes, the grey, cold, rainy days of late fall and early winter. For many, this can be a challenging time: the days are shorter and darker, there’s less to do outside, and the cold can really get to you. Seasonal depression, whether it’s a mild case of the blues or a more troubling dysphoria, is common and treatable.
First off, if you’re experiencing serious depression, severe mood changes, or the desire to self-harm, seek emergency/professional help immediately. I’m a big fan of herbal solutions, but for severe and immediate issues, get the help you need. Herbal protocols tend to be slow, deep, long-term solutions. Don’t fool around with severe mood disorders.
Okay, well, assuming that you’re feeling mild-to-moderate seasonal blahs, and maybe are looking for a little stress support to get you through the winter holiday season and the colder, darker months beyond, here are some of my favorite suggestions.
Enjoy some warm, rich food
The desire for carbohydrates and rich food this time of year is not all bad. In fact, sweet nourishing foods like roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes are a healthy and nutritious way to beat the winter blues. Those bright orange veggies contain beta carotene, which supports a healthy immune system, among other benefits. Add some toasted sunflower seeds for added cheeriness! Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium and tryptophan, both of which are helpful for improving mood. And don’t forget the great flavor! Enjoying your food can lift your spirits all on its own!
Keep up with your exercise
Even with the colder whether and early darkness, it’s important to get up and get moving. Sitting for long periods can make an already blue mood worse. So even if it’s just a few stretches or jumping jacks next to your chair, get some blood flowing!
Herbs for stress
Stress can be a big problem this time of year. The winter holidays can be more stressful than we like to admit, so a little extra help is always welcome. My favorite herbs for stress are Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, and Skullcap. Valerian, used to help with sleep, can also reduce anxiety. And Lavender essential oil, used in a room diffuser, inhaler, or as perfume, can reduce stress and improve mood. A simple tea infusion made with Holy Basil, Rose Petals, and Lavender Flowers make a tasty stress-relieving treat!
Herbs for mood
And here’s what you’ve been waiting for! Specific herbs for lifting the spirits and improving mood are: Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids, St. John’s Wort, Turmeric Root, and B Vitamins (among others, of course!)
- Omega 3’s support overall nerve health and hormone production
- John’s Wort may be the most studied herb for mood to date, and seems to work best for mild-to-moderate depression, especially seasonal or periodic mood issues
- Turmeric, which is best known as an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid, is showing great potential for mood issues, particularly those due to stress
- A basic B-complex, or multi-vitamin with a good number of B vitamins, supports the nervous system, helps with stress, and improves overall mood
And most important, don’t worry, be happy! Spring will come!