North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

How to beat the Holiday Blues


December 20, 2017 | View PDF

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A tip to beat the Holiday Blues is to drink sparkling water instead of juice and alcohol.

The season of holiday cheer is upon us, but why do so many people feel down and depressed in the winter season? There is such a thing called seasonal affective disorder, in which your mood takes a turn for the worst during the darker winter months. Our brain produces melatonin, and without sunlight it has trouble suppressing the production which causes extra fatigue and sluggish motivation.

Vitamin D3 levels in the northwest are notorious for being low since we get almost no sunlight in the winter and spring months. We can also look a step further and discuss more reasons that people feel depressed seasonally.

Alcohol and sugar intake tends to be high during the holiday season. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can lead to increased depression and anxiety. It also depletes certain mood enhancing vitamins like B6 and folic acid. A healthy tip is to drink sparkling water instead of juice and alcohol. Overeating carbohydrates and sugar also drains energy and increases blood sugar and weight gain which can affect a person's overall feeling and mood. Instead of choosing food for emotional comfort, try making a warm fire, or taking a hot bath with epsom salts. Drinking a hot cup of green tea can also suppress hunger and keep you warm.

Loneliness is also a big contributor to mood. Many people do not have close family or friends that they can celebrate with around the holiday season. This is a time when people start to think of loved ones who have passed, or they tend to not be as social because of the weather. I encourage you then to be more social, and attend some holiday gatherings. Being social can really help with feeling lonely by realizing that there are people in the world who care. Try to remember to get exercise also, just bundle up and go for a nice long walk, or join an indoor gym. A body that is sedentary will feel more sluggish and tired. Other subtle signs of depression include: Lack of motivation, foggy thinking, feeling hopeless, oversleeping, weight gain etc . If you are having any of these symptoms, please discuss it right away with your doctor.

Weight gain is another contributor to feeling depressed. Many people would love to lose 10 or more pounds, but instead each year they gain more weight. I encourage you to stick to your diet through the holiday season. Decrease the sugar, fat, and alcohol intake, and take up an exercise routine. When January comes around, get serious about a weight loss program that will fit your schedule, and actually do it. People who lose weight and reach their goals are extremely happy, believe me the hard work will pay off. Naturopathic doctors help many people with weight loss through diet, lab testing, and vitamin supplementation.

Another important contributing factor is sleep. When you get good quality sleep, the body is able to heal and balance hormones that contribute to weight loss. Cortisol levels are able to stay low which balances stress and blood sugar. Some tips for healthy sleep are to shut off all the bright lights (TV, computer, phones etc) about 40 minutes before bed. Try to avoid caffeine and chocolate after 4 p.m.. Magnesium or melatonin at times helps the body naturally get a good quality sleep. Avoiding alcohol at night prevents anxiety and insomnia, as well as getting up to urinate during the night.

Try to get some outdoors time between the rainy weather days of course. Sunshine and fresh air can lift a gloomy mood. Consider planning a sunny short vacation for the spring, to take a break from the winter weather. A certified UV light box has been shown to help seasonal depression as well, when used upon waking.

Try all of these tips for a healthier mood, and talk with a Naturopathic Doctor to tailor a more specific treatment plan to reach your goals.

Dr. Apfelbaum is a Naturopathic Doctor at The Northwest Center for Optimal Health in Marysville, WA, located at 316 State Ave. in Marysville, WA. Contact us at 360-651-9355 (WELL) or


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