WW blog: Natalie's food & wellness guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder
Hi everyone! I'm Natalie (aka @natsnatterings on Instagram). I joined WW in January 2018 and currently, I’ve lost 2st 10lbs.
This week I'm taking over the WW UK blog to discuss the winter blues.
I think we're all in agreement when I say that 2020 has been a funny old year. I remember writing out a list as long as my arm of things I wanted to achieve this year, but instead of completing my first half marathon, like the majority of us, I spent half the year indoors.
The global pandemic has driven stress, anxiety and depression far above normal levels. I don't know about you, but with the restrictions across the UK fluctuating more than a yo-yo and the days getting shorter and darker, I find myself retreating indoors, reaching for a throw and tub of Celebrations. Despite being a sucker for a Bounty and the cosy season, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder every year, which affects my mood, energy, motivation and overall wellbeing.
Armed and ready to see this winter through with a smile, these are my most treasured seasonal staples.
At the beginning of this year, I ditched my gym membership in favour of outdoor running (which kept me sane throughout lockdown). That said, waking up at the crack of winter dawn to run 5K really doesn’t excite me.
To that end, I make a point of finding alternatives to keep my mood and endorphins in check. For me it can look like completing a FitOn class from home, going for a swim or my personal favourite, an autumnal walk. Once the leaves have fallen and the air is crisp enough to enjoy, I lace up and head out. I use the time to catch up on podcasts, call a friend, or bop along to one of my playlists.
Also, my not-so-guilty pleasure is one-song dance parties. Sometimes I do it first thing; other days in the evening. It helps me relieve any tension from the day and quite honestly I love it. There's something so freeing about having a shimmy like nobody's watching.
Battling with over-indulgence
With social distancing, I’m not entirely sure how my social calendar will look leading up to Christmas this year, but I usually find myself swapping home-cooked dinners for meals and drinks out. While that will always be one of my pleasures, I try my best to strike a balance between indulgence and listening to what my body needs. Some days it's a cheese board, and sometimes it’s the simplicity of a home-cooked dinner and an early night.
That's the beauty of autumn and winter though - you can rustle up and batch cook foods with just the basics. My go-to recipes are the WW beef stew, halloumi and chickpea curry, toad in the hole, and shakshuka.
If it's the social element you're missing, double up the quantities and invite a friend over to join you. You can swap cocktails for a gin and tonic without breaking the SmartPoints bank.
Cut yourself some slack
It's normal to feel waves of varying emotions. Mine heighten and anxiety kicks in when I’m not as busy. But this year, meditation has helped teach me to embrace all of my feelings, and I’ve noticed that in doing so, it feels easier to let them go afterwards.
There will always be something you could have done or said better, or time you could have spent on something else, but only YOU get to decide how much you tune in to your inner critic. Chances are you've achieved way more than you're giving yourself credit for.
If you want to give meditation a go, I can recommend Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm. Try your best to go into it without any expectations (easier said than done, I know), and see which app you prefer best.
If your mental health starts to deteriorate, reach out to friends, family, colleagues etc... That could be over a coffee, Sunday roast, or over FaceTime - chances are someone will have experienced similar feelings, and if not, then you have someone who will listen to you.
Confiding in those closest to you isn’t always easy, so if you prefer, you can reach out to the WW community via Instagram or Connect. I can assure you that if you ever need someone to talk to, my DMs are always open.
And there you have it, my tips on how to survive the darker days and SAD. I really hope you've found this useful. If you have any other go-to tips, please do share them with me on Instagram, at @natsnatterings.