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Stephanie Patterson | 10 June 2020

Hey Winter, great to see you – but how the heck did you get here so fast?!

For some of us, Winter is a season of cosy comforts, for others it’s a long stretch of cold, wet and gloom without a public holiday in sight!

Putting on that warm winter coat and boots, enjoying the ambience of an open fire, snuggling under a blanket on the couch as you watch some rugby or league, hearty winter soups and cupping your cold hands around a delicious hot chocolate. If reading this gives you a warm feeling inside – hooray!! If, however, you are a sun-worshipping, picnic-loving, beach-goer, it may send both a literal and figurative shiver down your spine!

For some of us, Winter is a season of cosy comforts, for others it’s a long stretch of cold, wet and gloom without a public holiday in sight! If you’re in the latter camp, we have a few ideas and tips to help you through.

We’re hearing a lot of talk about people feeling tired, a bit down and lacking energy and motivation. The last few months have been strange to say the least – while some people have been busier than ever, others have been nervously twiddling their thumbs (or somewhere in between). Either way, very few of us have been entirely stress-free. Many have been stoically positive – perhaps for colleagues, employees, family or friends, and few things will leave you as mentally and physically exhausted as putting on a brave face for any period of time. So, how do we get some of that energy and mojo back?

It may sound like an oxymoron, but getting some exercise can be a quick way to see a positive shift in your energy and mood. I’m not necessarily suggesting marathon training or a gym session here (unless that’s your thing); walking is a really simple and accessible way to get some gentle exercise. Personally, I find this much easier to fit into my day if it’s done with a purpose. Walking around the block for the sake of it can feel like a low priority some days, but if you incorporate an errand of some kind, it can have added benefits. Not only will you get some exercise, but if the sun is shining, you’ll have the added bonus of getting some Vitamin D, which among many things will help you absorb calcium, meaning stronger bones. In heading out to take this purposeful walk, you’ll benefit from the release of endorphins (which lift your mood) and you may also have ticked something off the to-do list … sounds like a win/win/win/win to me. If the errand in question is driving distance away, try parking 1km from where you need to be, then you will manage at least a 2km walk getting to and from your car – easy!

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make a difference, and drinking more water is one of those. Thirst and dehydration can masquerade as hunger and fatigue. In the winter months, I find water intake harder to maintain, as warm drinks are so much more appealing; this is where herbal and fruit teas can come in. They can be as equally hydrating as water, and some teas bring with them the added benefits of antioxidants.

Increasing your nutrient intake in winter can be a great way to improve your feeling of wellbeing, and you may not need to change much to achieve that. Some vitamins and minerals in our food work better in pairs, and some, sadly, don’t get on, so working with some of nature’s natural combinations can help.

An iron deficiency can sneak up on you, and can really knock you for six. Iron is easier for your body to absorb when consumed with Vitamin C. So, consider having capsicum, broccoli, leafy greens, or kiwifruit and oranges alongside your iron-rich food. On the flipside of this, the high level of tannin in black tea will inhibit the absorption of iron. Try herbal or green tea with your meals, and if you’re taking iron supplements or a multi-vitamin, wash them down with water or juice to get the maximum benefits.

In a similar vein, some vitamins and minerals are ‘fat soluble’ – which means that unless you have oil or fat at the same time, you don’t get to enjoy the benefits of all the goodness you’re consuming. For many people, eating a salad is a conscious decision to be healthy by eating more vitamin-rich food, so it does seem a bit of a shame if those vitamins can’t quite get across the line. Vitamins A, D and E all play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system, and individually contribute to bone, skin and eye health, and have antioxidant properties. All need to be consumed with fat to be absorbed. By adding some seeds, nuts or olive oil dressing to your salads, or putting a smidge of butter on your veges makes it an easy fix. Or if the protein, meat or dairy accompanying your vegetables contains fat, you’re already sorted.

Reducing stress is something that is often talked about, and for good reason; but is not always that easy to achieve. Certainly, exercise and supporting your body with a healthy diet will help, as will social interaction and taking time out to do something that you love. Joy and laughter produce wonderful mood boosting hormones and endorphins that bring benefits money can’t buy. If social gatherings and fun stuff aren’t always possible, try watching a movie that you know will make you laugh, or make the most of the wealth of short, funny videos online. It’s not rocket science and it won’t make your worries disappear, but a few good belly laughs can certainly provide some light relief.

Finally, the two S’s – sunlight and sleep. Get a healthy dose of both if you can. Make the most of the early sunset by prioritising sleep and schedule a few early nights a week. Winding down with a book (rather than a device) and gaining a few extra zzzz’s can make the world of difference to you and your family. Try and book a day when the whole family can wake up naturally, and take note of how much extra time people sleep, compared with the usual alarm times. If there’s a big difference, see if you can bring your bedtimes back a bit each day to shorten the gap and see how you feel, and if the atmosphere in the house changes.

The sun is up there with laughter as one of the best, free ‘feel-good’ treats on Earth. When you see it out in winter, do your best to get into it. If you’re working from home, try to shuffle your break times around it, or if you’re in the office, encourage your colleagues to take a quick break, go for a walk, or just grab a few magic rays before they disappear. Whether it’s yourself, your team or your kids – encourage moments in the sun, then enjoy the improved mood and productivity when back inside.

In a nutshell: exercise, eat well, have some fun, plenty of sleep and a little bit of sun.

Do your best to support your body, make time for you, encourage others, and prioritise things that will fill your tank. Remember, your own happiness and energy will spread to those around you, and hopefully come full circle when you need it.