How to Beat the Blues, Avoid Burnout and Stay Well this Winter

How to Beat the Blues, Avoid Burnout and Stay Well this Winter

Anyone else feeling pretty much at the end of their tether?

Perhaps the shorter days and reduction of sunshine hours are contributing to us feeling less than filled to the brim with energy, enthusiasm and excitement.  Today we explore how we can beat the "Blues" and identify what's causing them.

As the last leaves fall from the trees and we welcome the bare branches of winter, now is the season often associated with our brains taking a foggy hit. If we’re struggling to concentrate at home or work, especially on the most simplest of tasks, rest assured in the comfort that this is often the body nudging us to sync to the seasons and take rest. 

As someone once acquainted with the devastating effects of burnout, today we explore how to avoid this fate and remain well during winter.

What is Cognitive Fatigue?

In November 2019, I crashed and not just with a little bit of exhaustion, but entirely crashed and everything around me came crashing down too, as a direct result of not listening to my body, pushing through and past the signs of burnout.  You can read my full story as to why I burned out, here. 

For me, burnout felt like drinking 10 energy drinks at once and not being able to focus that energy. 

For others; fatigue headache nausea are the common symptoms that go hand in hand with burnout, as does overwhelm, fatigue and dizziness, the depression feeing and the onset of a depression episode.  Depression types come in all shapes and forms with many causes, albeit inherited or situational. 

When I look back on the experience, I thank it, with every part of my being as it led me to be able to identify fatigue signs very early on and scream "WARNING" when I am at risk of walking back down that path. It allows me to say no to taking on new projects when I am at capacity, set boundaries and allow myself to stop even when the ego cries "urgency" to get something done.  Urgency is rare and a most overused word in the work place, but that is a story for another day. 

Cognitive fatigue is described as feeling, increasingly emotionally and mentally drained. Symptoms can include exhaustion, forgetfulness, irritability, stress, comfort eating and lack of sleep. Our brain may feel like it’s in overdrive mode with ‘life admin’, which leaves us feeling less productive and in despair. 

Whilst some may class these symptoms as ‘blues’ and we are often encouraged to ‘power through’, cognitive fatigue can affect us long term, and all throughout the year, which can lead to worrying health issues, such as increased anxiety, depression, headaches and heart rate, affecting our overall mental and physical wellbeing.

The NHS recommends ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy' (CBT) as one of the many techniques available should we want to speak to a medical professional and have support with changing the way we think.

I chose talking therapy - and the technique I practiced was EMDR, as I learned to explore who I was outside of work and heal both burnout and the underlying PTSD that was quickly identified within my first session. The lady I spoke with was wonderful, a pink haired lady with a beautiful soul.  I hold her dearly in my heart and someones feel sadness because she did such a wonderful job, planted seeds in me that took flight and I have not seen her in over a year now. 

A regular ‘talking therapy’ session, every one to two weeks, with a specialist, may help to understand our emotional patterns, which can unconsciously "trap" us in our current negative state of mind. CBT has been known to treat eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and insomnia. Treatments can last between 5 - 20 sessions and 30 minutes to an hour per session, however we must be fully committed to the procedure to see beneficial improvements.

If our schedule does not allow for therapy or it isn’t something we feel comfortable with, adopting daily self-care activities may help us too.

Burnout at Work

Should you be experiencing burnout at work or burnout through work, my first immediate advice would be to "stop" even if for just a moment and then calve regular pauses and cut off points into your day, every day, even when it feels like there is not a moment to spare.  There is. Our mindset may just need a sight and marginal twist in perspective. 

Take Frequent Breaks

Whether it’s a 15 minute time out from work or kids, let’s unwind for our mental health. Preferably no phones allowed and plenty of fresh air. Go for a walk outside.

Return to Centre and Be Still

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, during the day or last thing at night, embedding meditation into our day can improve our focus, memory, clear the mind and reduce our stress levels. Guided meditations and meditation apps are a great place to start. 

Self Care

Self-care and self-acceptance is the epitome of improved wellbeing. Give your self some love, frequently and often.  Fill your own cup first.  You, nor your loved ones can drink from your cup when your cup is empty. 

Nutrition

When we are operating in a state of fight or flight, we often forget to eat, or are in such a hurry that when we do eat, it's junk - as useful to the body as water in an engine.  The mind struggles further without adequate sleep and nutrition that it needs to function. 

Give Your Self Time and Permission to Rest and Just Be 

Winter can be a difficult time. Long, dark evenings and turbulent weather can make it hard and can affect health. Being prepared can help us to stay healthy, safe and remain well through winter.

Wrap up Warm

  • Wear warm layers, which helps to trap warm air and keep you warmer than one thick jumper.  Include hats, gloves and scarves when needed and water-resistant shoes.

Eat Well with Whole and Seasonal Foods

    1. Keep your cupboards and freezer well stocked and have hot meals and drinks throughout the day
    2. Stay hydrated
    3. Eat more fruit and veg - think seasonal and reach for a juicy clementine or satsuma.  Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal. Consider fruit and vegetable varieties that you may not normally eat.
    4. When it's cold and dark outside, it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food. However, it's important to ensure you still have a healthy diet and include five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
    5. Have a hearty breakfast. Winter is the perfect season for breakfast with eggs or porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn't just a delicious way to start your day, it also boosts fibre intake and provides complex carbohydrates.  These foods give us energy and help us feel fuller for longer.  Oats also contain vital vitamins and minerals. Avoid adding sugar if you can - think "bear in winter" - honey makes a wonderful sugar substitute.  Add sliced bananas, berries and other seasonal fruit.

Exercise

  • Continue to move your body,
  • Allow your body appropriate recovery time,
  • Get outdoors and into natural daylight as much as possible.

Take your Vitamin D3

A dip in sunlight often means a dip in Vitamin D supply.  Whilst the sunshine is away during the winter months consider getting your Vitamin D supply from other sources such as:

  • oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, eggs, meat, some cereals and dairy products,
  • A Vitamin D3 supplement. This should be taken during autumn and winter. 

Look After your Mental Health

You might find that your mood is affected by the darker and colder months. It is important to take care of your emotional wellbeing during this time, and there are things you can do to help yourself feel better. If you have low mood and tiredness particularly during the winter, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Keep Your Home Warm

  • Draw the curtains to keep warmth in,
  • Keep furniture away from radiators so the heat can circulate,
  • Put draught excluders around doors and windows.

Sleep

  • Get a good night's sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

 Banish Winter Brain Fog

As we have already explored, many people feel tired and sluggish during winter. This may be further impacted by the lack of sunlight, which disrupts our sleep and waking cycles.

  • Try to get outdoors and into natural daylight as much as possible 

Skincare

Winter skin is a real thing, with our skin often reflecting the harshness of winter resulting in dryer, more red and flaky skin. 

Winter skincare should replenish and restore, topping up the nutrients that may have been lost to the wind. 

Keep your eyes awake with the nutrition of avocado. The Avocado Oil in Beautifully Nourished's Pro Age Eye Cream moisturises and nourishes the skin. In addition to vitamin E, avocado oil contains potassium, lecithin, and many other nutrients that can nourish and moisturise the skin.

Supplements 

Alongside Vitamin D3, consider a daily Multivitamin and supplements that support the mind and brain Health.  At Beautifully Nourished, we offer Omega 3,6,9, 5HTP, Energising B-Vitamin blend and Nootropic Cognitive Enhancer.  The cognitive formula features Guarana Extract, a Brazilian plant, to support with mental and physical fatigue. Amazonian tribes have used Guarana for centuries for its ancient therapeutic properties, rich in antioxidants and natural caffeine, balanced with amino acid L-Theanine. The addition of Ginkgo Biloba extract, often used in Chinese medicine, has also been proven to positively affect our mood, memory and reduce anxiety. 

I hope that you found this guide useful.  As always, the Beautifully Nourished doors are always open, should you need signposts to any further guidance.

On behalf of team BN, stay warm and rested this winter.  All my love,

Katherine, Founder BN x 
Registered Associate Nutritionist 
BSC Nutrition

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