For future reference, returning home from a Hawaii holiday on the first day of Winter doesn’t make the change of seasons any easier whatsoever! I know I’m not going to elicit any sympathy for having just come back from vacation, but I am truly feeling the cold. In fact, the only things I have achieved today was to drag the oil heater up from the garage and order a new beanie (this Ketz-Ke one!).
Besides just being cold though, Winter can also be unmotivating – who wants to get out of bed to exercise on a cold, dark morning (or get out of bed at all), for example? The cold, wet, short days of Winter can also cause us to feel fatigued – there just aren’t enough hours of daylight to get everything done, and this can result in stress, anxiety and unwanted tension.
Before the season gets the better of you, take some time to consider your health and well-being, and avoid getting sick and burned out this Winter.
Why do we experience the Winter Blues & Burnout?
Winter blues and feelings of burnout are real and significant issues – the cold climate and change of seasons affects both our mental and physical health in a variety of ways which shouldn’t be disregarded. Personally, Winter is the season when I am most likely to experience burnout… and I know I am not alone. Many of us blame the major drop in temperature for our low energy, tiredness and bad moods, and there are genuine reasons for this.
Once we are able to understand why we feel the Winter blues and risk getting burnt out during during these colder days, we can take steps to overcome them, and get on with enjoying the good things Winter has to offer!
Ain’t No Sunshine…
We take for granted the amount of Vitamin D we absorb during summer from the ample time spent in the sunny outdoors, especially in New Zealand. In Winter, though, spending as little time outside of the house as humanly possible, and getting all your heat from the electric blanket turned up to the max instead does not have quite the same health benefits. Lack of sunlight and Vitamin D deficiency results in our brains producing more of the hormone melatonin, which actually makes us more tired and want to sleep all of the time.
To get enough Vitamin D in Winter, we need to take advantage of every opportunity during the day when the sun is out. It can be easy to keep the curtains shut all day to keep the heat in and hibernate with Netflix, but making sure the house or the environment around you is filled with as much sunlight as possible will help you stay away aware and awake and let you achieve a lot more. That, and go for a walk outside as often as the weather allows.
Eating foods with high a source of vitamin D sources is also key, try and add these to your diet for maximum Vitamin D benefits:
- Salmon or any oily fish.
- Eggs (particularly the yolk)
- Mushrooms- one of the only plant source of vitamin D.
- Soy products
- Some orange juices that are fortified
- cereals and oats
Vitamin D improves your immune system significantly, which is super important in a time of burnout and cold and flu season. Vitamin D also can reduce symptoms of depression, boost weight loss and fight disease, essential for avoiding the Winter blues and burnout.
The Importance Of Self-Care in Your Daily Routine to Avoid Burnout
Burning out is a gradual process, subtle at first, escalating as time goes on. Think of the first symptoms as ‘red flags’ to alert you that something is wrong, and needs to be addressed. If you pay attention early and act to reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out. Constant running around in winter when we are already feeling fatigued, will make burnout 100% worse. With the amount of bugs, viruses and germs going around in the cold months, self-care to boost your immune system is vital.
The first symptoms of burnout are:
- Feeling exhausted, tired and drained most of the time.
- Sense of failure and doubting yourself.
- Lowered immunity, feeling sick and run-down a lot.
- Change in appetite, sleep or exercise habits.
- Loss of motivation to work or exercise.
- Feeling helpless, detached, alone and defeated.
- Increasingly cynical, and feeling like nothing you do makes a difference.
- Headaches or muscle pain.
When you begin feeling like that, for some of us, the first reaction is to withdraw even further from our friends and partners, stop exercising and eat junk or ‘comfort’ foods. Put simply, we stop caring for ourselves.
Self-care is something that many of us women are guilty of not prioritising or even guilty of not choosing correctly. Self-care is crucial to avoid burnout and is also the key to getting through. For many, there is a perception that this means taking hours out of your day, which feels especially hard when you are already overwhelmed. However, this does not need to be the case.
Constant running around in winter when we are already feeling fatigued, will make burnout 100% worse! With the amount of bugs, viruses and germs spreading in the cold months, self-care is crucial to boost your immune system.
If you feel like you have no spare time, but are aware that your busy life and demanding schedule sometimes lead you to feeling burned out, include as many of the following tips in your day-to-day routine:
Self-Care Tips to Avoid, and Overcome Burnout
1. Go for a walk
It probably sounds like the most obvious solution, but when you’re at risk of being burned out, there is nothing better than a calming walk, even if it means reducing your high-intensity exercise to make time for this. Exercise is so beneficial for many reasons.
When we are feeling close to a burnout, going to the gym to do a hard, high intensity workout may actually not be the best decision, and is one that I have to remind myself of constantly. Doing a boxing class may seem like a good idea to blow off some steam and forget about all of our stresses, but once the class is over, all the stresses can come flooding back in, and adrenaline can actually make them worse. I also tend to wear myself out even more than I already am, resulting in a burnout.
Even if it is just a 20 minute walk, though you might not be burning many calories, you are still moving your body without putting any stress on your body, allowing it to rest and restore. Take your headphones, turn your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and allow yourself to do some thinking. This could include making a realistic plan of everything you want to achieve this week, or just switching off from ‘goals’ and allowing yourself to be grateful for your life and changing your mindset to be positive and motivated.
This week, I took four days off the gym, giving myself time to rest and recover. While meditation isn’t something I enjoy, I will often go to a yoga class to relax too, sometimes taking Blair with me.
2. At home beauty therapy
Many of us do not always have the time (or sometimes the money) to go to the beautician to get a facial or a pedicure. So long as we’re taking the time out, it’s just as beneficial to do it ourselves. I know I always feel better when I feel clean and well presented, which might just mean painting my nails. Run a bath with a relaxing bath bomb, paint your nails and apply a face mask for 20 minutes. There is nothing better than hopping in a warm bath after being outside in the freezing cold! Beauty and skincare can help you feel new again and to also feel ready to conquer that next challenge. The best thing about this is that you are in the comfort of your own home!
Personally, if I can make the time, I will sometimes make my night-time skin ritual a 20 minute one, rather than a 2 minute slap-dash-cleanse. Instead of rushing the process, I treat each part of the process as a night-time wind-down, and even choose products which will help me get to sleep each night. Every night, I massage my face for one minute with skinsonic and my cleanser, before applying soothing serums and a night cream with sleep-inducing qualities.
3. A self-date
There are so many things that we can feel too scared to do by ourselves which we normally do with other people. These can include going to the movies, going to a café or even having a day in by yourself watching a shit tonne of movies and tv shows! All of these things can feel so good for our soul and are so much fun. Doing these things by ourselves allows us to feel comfortable in our own skin and teaches us to not be scared to really think about what’s going on in our life.
It also gives you an opportunity to wind down and get out of the cold weather. The constant change of temperate (going from warm inside to cold outside) is not good for both out physical and mental health, so if you are to self-date outside, make sure you wrap up in multiple layers, get those jumpers, beanies, gloves and scarves out and pair it with a thick warm winter coat. Big winter coats are definitely one of my favourite parts of winter.
4. Write it all down.
Writing things down can be a great way to unwind, and get things that are stressing you out off your chest, especially if you feel like you cannot talk to anyone about what is going on. Journalling is amazing therapy. It is also a good opportunity to be able to get all your thoughts together that are making your head spin. It might make you realise that things aren’t actually as bad as you thought.
If you don’t feel like writing about what is stressing you out, you could instead write about some of your favourite memories, or set goals for the future. Blair and I use I still do every couple of months to reflect on what has been, and what is to do in the future, and of course a lot of brides-to-be use the little white book every day to write down their thoughts, feelings and emotions, especially when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Reminiscing on memories can remind you of the good times, and motivate you to carry on with your to-do like that seems to be never ending.
Curling up by the fire (if you have one) or cuddling up in bed journaling is such a good way to unwind in winter!
Food is so important for our bodies to function ,and when we are busy, it is something that many of us do not prioritise, especially when shit hits the fan. Balance is key. Nourishing your body with nutrients from fruit and vegetables can really help in times of stress, giving you more energy to help you push through and also making you feel less bloated and meh.
However, I know I always know that treating myself to baking or chocolate and ice-cream helps brighten my spirits when I am down. Foods like this are totally good for our souls in moderation, so don’t beat yourself for buying a caramel slice to go with your coffee when you need a pick me up.
It can be hard in winter when all we want to eat is hearty meals and comfort food, but finding that balance is key to boost both your immune system and energy levels, and keep those Vitamin D levels high with the foods recommended above.
6. Switch Off (Work, your computer… even Social-Media)
While some of us have the luxury of leaving our “work” at the office, many of us, including myself, do not. Realistically, even those who only work while at the physical premise, completely switching off from work is difficult to do. Further, even if social media is completely unrelated to your job, it is still a stimulant, and not conducive to relaxing (however much I want you to watch my instagram stories before bed)…
Sometimes, it’s better to just completely switch off from social media, whether that’s by setting rules to limit your devices (i.e. not taking your phone to bed) or putting it in your bag when you get home from work.
This will both help with feelings of being burned out, and encourage you to focus on those around you, reducing the effect of your burnout on your relationships.
7. Talk to someone else
When you are really feeling burned out, you may be complaining about it more than you realise, and it’s likely that one (or maybe two) people are on the receiving end of all of it. To avoid your burnout having a negative effect on your closest relationships, especially that with your partner, find someone else to talk to. Find another colleague or friend to lend an ear, or even look to an online group for support.
No matter how much your partner loves you, listening to you complain all the time just isn’t good for your relationship. See How Burnout Affects Your Relationships.
Remember, it is totally ok to be selfish and take time out for yourself, and crucial to both avoiding, and getting through burnout and maintain your relationships in the process.
You can only look after and love other people, if you first take the time to love and look after yourself.
Winter also doesn’t last forever, and before we know it, we will be complaining that it is too hot… so make the most of it!