Posted on 01/30/2017 · Posted in Health Information from Affiliated Dentists

How to Relieve Stress in the Winter

The Midwest can get some pretty harsh winters, forcing many inside between November and March, sometimes even longer. Staying cooped up inside as the amount of sunlight from the summer months diminishes can bring about feelings of depression and sadness, but it can also cause stress. When trying to complete the daily tasks of life, adding shorter hours of sun, icy roads and blizzards to drive through, and below freezing temperatures can truly add an emotional weight to anyone. Thankfully, there are many things that can relieve it, even in the winter months.

Get Some Exercise

Physical movement, whether it is going for a walk, hitting the gym, or any other type of exercise, does wonders for managing stress levels. Unfortunately, for many, jogging or biking in the snow just isn’t enticing. Not only is it cold, but it can be dangerous.

Instead, it is good to sign up for a local gym and go at least three times a week. Schedules can get pretty full, though, so for those who cannot make it that often, at-home workouts can be very helpful.

Exercise increases endorphins (what makes the brain feel good), helps meditation, and even improves a person’s mood, all of which helps reduce stress.

Don’t Forget Light

Serotonin is another important thing that, at the right doses, helps a body feel good. It is a hormone, which helps boosts a person’s mood and helps them feel calm and focused. When your serotonin levels are boosted, it greatly reduces stress.

At night, in the darkness, melatonin is released instead, which causes people to feel sleepy. Since days in the winter are shorter, night time comes sooner and lasts longer in the mornings. Because of this, many people feel like they never get a chance to see the sun on a daily basis. When they wake up it is dark, and the sun sets before they come home from work. Their serotonin dips, leaving them more tired each day. Too much of it can even bring on depression. Extremely low levels of serotonin can also bring on what is known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is a type of depression that is brought on by the changing seasons.

It is highly recommended to get outside in the sunlight a little bit each day, even in the winter. This helps keep serotonin levels stable. If the temperature is too cold, as it often can be during Midwest winters, at the very least a person should sit by a well lit window, or go out for small periods of time.

Essential Oils Can Help

Scent is something that can change a person’s mood at the drop of a hat. A simple smell can trigger long lost memories of childhood or a favorite meal from family gatherings. That is why it’s so important in reducing stress.

Smells travel through the olfactory nerves and enter the brain, giving different parts of it a plethora of signals. These trigger the memories, as well as different moods and emotions. This is why smelling the correct essential oils can instantly reduce stress and make a person feel much better.

The most common stress reducing essential oils are:

  • lavender
  • jasmine
  • ylang ylang
  • lemon
  • bergamot
  • clary sage

Some prefer to smell their essential oils straight from the bottle, others like to dab a little on each wrist and wear them like perfume. Companies that sell the oils often even have humidifiers for purchase that mix water with the oils. Regardless of how they are used, many people find their stress levels lowering greatly when using essential oils.

Reduce Stress With Reading

What is something that can reduce stress in under ten minutes, relax your body, lower your heart rate, and even ease muscle tension? Reading. Studies have even shown it reduces stress more than listening to music because it takes the mind into a different world altogether and forces us to focus on reading and nothing else (whereas one can listen to music and do other things at the same time).

To fully engross in a book and get the full stress reducing benefit of reading, it is crucial to put away all distractions such as cell phones, computers, tablets, all forms of social media, and so on. Not only does one get a new, exciting story to experience, but people learn so much more from reading books, like new words or perspectives.

When someone is reading something they are enthralled with, they truly do leave the world behind – including its daily stresses.

Stress Relief is Important

The above tactics can greatly reduce stress, but sometimes, it still isn’t enough. Medical doctors are able to help people cope with their stress when they are unable to do so on their own, as it can have long-lasting and sometimes devastating effects:

  • weakened immune system
  • higher blood pressure
  • faster heart rate
  • headaches and migraines
  • heartburn and acid reflux
  • changes in your digestive process
  • reduced decision making
  • increased frustration and anger
  • less sleep

Whether it’s summer or winter, rainy or sunny, it’s important to properly manage your stress.