Avoid the winter blues: How to avoid cabin fever and boost your immunity

March 17, 2020

Avoid the winter blues: How to avoid cabin fever and boost your immunity

It's about time I put together a post like this.

Not only for this time of uncertainty and quarantining due to COVID-19, but also because many live in parts of the country/world where, during the winter season, it’s rainy, gloomy, snowy and/or too cold to spend too much time outdoors.


But also spending too much time indoors can of course have its drawbacks, here’s why:


  • Indoor air is actually more toxic than outdoor/fresh air.
  • Limited to no sun exposure.
  • More time indoors = more time watching tv/reading/screen time and less movement

You know what that does to the body?

  • Toxic air = more toxin accumulation in the body and lungs
  • Limited sun exposure = less vitamin D absorption
  • Less movement = muscle degradation, joint pain, bone mass loss, weight gain
  • More screen time = eye strain, lower melatonin production, less/poor sleep

But this is not to make you feel bad at all about hibernating indoors! Sometimes we really have no choice. 


That’s why I’m arming you with ways to avoid the cabin fever, winter blues and bonus: BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY!

What's your Morning Routine?

The most important thing to do to avoid cabin fever is to establish a daily routine, not defined down to each hour, but more or less broken down by morning, afternoon, evening. The most important part of your day being your morning, as it sets the pace and the emotional tone/mood for the rest of the day.


For example, in the mornings, you can:

  • Start your day with a 10-minute mindful meditation session (try Headspace or Calm App, or YouTube)
  • Journaling for 10 minutes - find 3 things you’re grateful for
  • Set your intention(s) for the day. For example, set 1-3 goals for things you want to get done that day. Things like, organize the hallway closet, or spend at least 30 minutes giving undivided attention to my child/pet and give rough time frames of when you’ll accomplish those goals. You can also set long term goals/intentions for the whole season, like finishing one (or three!) books on your reading list, finishing a home DIY project, etc.
  • Get some movement in. There are so many amazing at home workouts available on YouTube. Some of my favorites are “Yoga with Adriene and PopSugar Fitness. You don’t have to go for a full hour workout. Choose 20 to 30 minute workouts and if you have time, do it 1-3 times per day (or choose different workouts) and spread them throughout the day.
  • Make breakfast (Smoothies and smoothie bowls are a great way to take in a lot of nutrients and stay full. Check out my FREE 5-day hormone balancing meal plan as a resource - sign up to receive it at the bottom of the page). And then enjoy eating your breakfast without any distractions. Enjoy the company of those you’re eating it with, or if you’re by yourself, eat next to a window or balcony, and enjoy nature or the view of the outdoors while you’re eating.

Get some fresh air

Did you know that indoor air is more toxic than outdoor air? You’d think that because of all the pollution, inside is better, right?!


Add more Greens to your space

 


But according to the EPA, “indoor levels of pollutants may be up to 100 times higher than outdoor pollutant levels and have been ranked among the top 5 environmental risks to the public.”[1]


So it’s important to have adequate air filtration in place throughout your home, or especially in the areas you dwell in the most. 


One of the best ways to do this is to have more house plants! These are nature’s best air filters. Look for plants such as:

  • Spider plant
  • Ferns
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Peace Lily
  • English Ivy
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Golden Pothos
  • Philodendron

Diffuse Essential Oils

Another way to purify the air (and also create a calming atmosphere!) is through diffusing essential oils. Oils such as lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, wild orange, cinnamon bark have a calming and cleansing effect. 

If you don’t know what essential oils are, read this.

Essential oils activate the olfactory system, which is the part of the brain that is connected to the sense of smell.


This means that when you smell them (by diffusing them), they activate our emotional, mental and physical health because of the aromatic chemicals released.


These chemicals can induce relaxation, can clean up bacteria in the air, reduce inflammation, among many other things.


And what about getting your vitamin D intake?


Less sun exposure is very common in the winter, whether you’re quarantined or not. So it’s inevitable that if our vitamin D levels were not optimal by the end of the summer, that we become deficient in the winter.


It is common to have low vitamin D levels even at the end of the summer. This is because our lifestyle has evolved so much over the years. The majority of us now work in offices most of the time, and year round. We park our cars as close to the building as possible, and we’re spending less and less time outdoors. In addition to that, we pile on the sunscreen to all exposed skin. This means we actually get very little direct sun exposure - even in the summertime.


What happens when you’re vitamin D deficient?


What is the significance of vitamin D to the body?


Vitamin D is actually a fat-soluble hormone that not only plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone density but also: immunity, hormones, gut health and brain health.


Vitamin D has the power to control immune response, and deficiency can lead to autoimmune disease and an increasing susceptibility to infection. [2]


Several studies have shown that those with low vitamin D levels were more receptive to infections and sick days from work.


Tuberculosis infections were treated with high doses of vitamin D before antibiotics were created.


That’s how powerful this vitamin (but actually it's a hormone!) is.


In addition to that, vitamin D is essential for making thyroid hormones and a deficiency is often associated with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism).


When the thyroid is low in function, it creates a cascade effect on the rest of the hormones in the body and can result in irregular periods, weight gain and infertility.


Vitamin D also impacts brain function and mood. The “winter blues” and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are directly linked to vitamin D deficiency. 


It’s important to supplement with vitamin D throughout the winter months to boost the immunity and avoid the winter blues, between 2000 to 3000 IU’s. 

BUT there are actually two forms of vitamin D available in supplements: D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocaclciferol).

D2 is less effective and less absorbable than D3 because it’s not as biologically active.

If you’re vitamin D deficient and need to take a supplement, D3 is what you should look for.

It’s also best to take it with a fat, since it’s fat soluble and will be better absorbed.


Excellent supplements include those from Designs For Health (Vitamin D Supreme) and Genestra (D-Mulsion 1000) and Cod Liver Oil.


Food sources (though not nearly enough alone) include: wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, whole egg.


A note about excess screen time


Any electronic device using Light Emitting Diodes (LED) such as a smartphone, tablet, computer or tv, and of course LED light bulbs emit blue light.

 

 

Blue light impairs the circadian rhythm, which is responsible for giving you energy during the day, and causing you to wind down at night. It does so by suppressing melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that signals to the brain when it’s time to sleep. 


Blue light is great during the day because it’s energizing, but harmful at night because it tricks the body into thinking it’s still daytime.


A study done in 2014 showed that people who used a light-emitting device before bed took longer to fall asleep, slept less deeply, and were more alert than people who read a printed book. [3]


During sleep, the body regenerates and the brain and liver detoxify so that the immune system is not burdened with excess waste and pathogens to ward off.


In order to have the most optimal immune system performance, it’s important to prioritize sleep by:

  • Getting in bed by 10pm
  • Going to bed at the same time each night (or most days)
  • Sleeping in a pitch-black room (also optimizes melatonin production)
  • Avoiding electronics at least one hour before bed

What you eat matters


This last point is important and most often missed.


What we put into our bodies also affects our immune system.


Eating sugar and processed foods suppresses the immune system.

For example, one can of coke has been shown to suppress the activity of white blood cells for up to 5 hours.


This is significant - especially if you have this can of coke around the time that a virus or pathogen comes into contact with your blood and starts to proliferate. It continues to do so, because the white blood cells - which fight pathogens, are “taking a break”.


Processed foods also contain inflammatory ingredients and artificial chemicals which slow down our detoxification pathways and in turn reduce immune system activity.


To boost the immune system, it’s important to focus on nutrient-rich and anti-inflammatory foods that are not processed. This includes all vegetables and fruits, high quality proteins (grass-fed/pasture-raised/wild caught), healthy fats and whole grains.


Now I’d love to hear from you.


What resonates the most/least with you?


Do you think you get enough sunlight and vitamin D exposure during the winter months?





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