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by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
The alarm goes off.... surely not! It's still dark outside and I've only just got to sleep. It's winter, I really hate getting up in the dark, it's not a lazy can't be bothered to get out of bed type but a full body, physical and emotional and instinctive... it feels all wrong. I feel so awful, depressed, tired, hungry, apathetic and bloated.
The more tired I am the less I can sleep. What is going on? I have a case of The Winter Blues.
SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder is a clinically recognised disorder caused by shortened daylight hours. Symptoms can be very severe and even disabling. A milder version is something we call The Winter Blues.
Funnily enough I don't feel blue if I'm away skiing or outside stomping around in crisp cold weather or throwing snowballs or clearing winter debris from the garden.
It's all about light on the retina; the back of our eye. This affects the production of melatonin, and in turn serotonin, both substances that affect our moods.
Acupuncture regulates the internal homeostasis of the body. This means it helps to restore and maintain the levels of hormones, enzymes, histamines, blood cells and organ activity within normal range. It is a retune for the body.
Light levels affect mood enhancing chemicals in our bodies, lower the level and we feel unhappy. Some people are very sensitive to light levels and changes (effects) are severe. Acupuncture helps to restore these to normal.
In TCM terms the flow of qi through the body slows down, it stagnates in certain organs leaving us feeling out of balance, 'just not right' and with the feeling that something is missing. The energy to the spleen and stomach may become overheated leaving us with a gnawing hunger which cannot be satiated. Libido drops as kidney yang energy flattens out and depression and apathy set in as the qi passing through the liver stagnates. This causes depression and can affect sleep, which may become less satisfying, fitful, or excessive.
So what to do?
Exercise; it often feels like the last thing you want to do, but really, try. Walk, dance, go to the gym, make love, move that qi. Once you start it gets easier.
Be outside, remember there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes. It is difficult on a wet, cold day, but get to the park or the river or walk to work and take in the season. Feel the air on your face and importantly let whatever light there is into your eyes.
Eat well... we covered this last November. Good quality balanced diet, follow the 70% full rule and check that you are not eating too much.
See your acupuncturist regularly, share your troubles and take a soothing, balancing and nourishing treatment.
A Chinese herbal formula that you can take on a daily basis prescribed for you particular constitution will really help.
Plan a few things that you enjoy. Have things to look forward to, a night out with friends, a massage, theatre trip or even a round of golf!
Take pleasure in the small things in life. A lovely cup of tea, a funny joke, a watery winter sun.
Seasons change and so do we, we need to roll with this, being outside helps us to connect with the earth accept the changes and enjoy the moment.