Winter’s short, dark days can zap your energy, but hibernation isn’t the only option — there are things you can do to improve your energy levels.
Diane Ehren-Kipping, Liberty Hospital community/employee health and wellness manager, provides her energy-boosting tips to get through the season:
• Eat healthily: “Good eating habits are essential,” Ehren-Kipping said. “During the winter, we tend to crave starchy foods. However, fruits and vegetables are the best foods year-round.”
The Cleveland Clinic especially recommends kiwi, oranges, broccoli, potatoes, peppers and berries. They’re great sources of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and a host of other antioxidants to help with energy and boosting the immune system. Dark, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens, also have been shown to decrease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
• Exercise: Even though you might feel like hibernating in the evening, exercise can make a significant difference in your energy levels, Ehren-Kipping, a registered nurse, added.
“If possible, get some exercise at lunchtime or during daylight hours or try some new activities in the evening,” she said. “Just keep moving.”
Because exercise delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, it improves your heart and lung health, according to the Mayo Clinic. When these improve, you have more energy to tackle daily tasks.
• Get some sun: Because darkness causes your brain to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, taking advantage of sunshine during daylight hours is essential.
“Open curtains first thing in the morning. Go outside whenever you can, even just for a brief lunchtime walk,” Ehren-Kipping said. “Try to ensure that your living and work spaces have as much natural light as possible.”
• Regulate your sleep: Although it feels like you should make like a bear and hibernate during the winter months, you actually don’t need any more sleep during the winter than in the summer.
“In fact, oversleeping can make you feel sluggish,” Ehren-Kipping said.
Get into a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. She suggests avoiding stimuli right before bed, such as screen time and caffeine, and trying natural sleep remedies like lavender aromatherapy or soothing teas.
“A good night’s sleep and a regular sleep schedule can provide an energy boost,” she added.
If you try these things and you still feel fatigued or lethargic, it’s time to talk to your health care provider.
“When your fatigue becomes profound — meaning it affects your daily life, i.e., you can’t get out of bed in the morning — that is a sign to see your health care provider,” Ehren-Kipping said.
Another reason to seek medical help is if your fatigue lasts longer than the winter months. Fatigue also may be a symptom of a lasting infection, so if it is accompanied by fever, chills or a sore throat, seek care right away.