This week I've noticed a common theme among my clients - there's been a lot of anxiety and emotional eating going on. People are being affected by the distressing events happening in the news, and particularly in the Bay Area. The devastating Napa fires are affecting everyone on the Peninsula, because we are seeing, breathing, and smelling smoke. It seems that each week, the news tells us about upsetting events, like the recent Las Vegas shooting. Politically, people are getting worried and scared. In addition, as we move toward the holiday season and the shorter, darker days of Fall and Winter, it's not uncommon to feel a bit blue, particularly if, as many in the Bay Area are, you are away from your family, or your home state or country.
Of course we can't control what happens around us, but we can focus on making sure we are doing as much as we can to care for ourselves, so that our coping mechanisms are strong. Lacking in the basic nutrients that keep our nervous systems working properly can lead to excessive anxiety, disturbed sleep and inability to relax.
In my opinion, unless you are living on the Equator and spend the day outside and nude, you need to take a Vitamin D supplement. Our main source is the sun, which converts cholesterol into D. Most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors, and when we DO go out, we wear sunscreen and cover ourselves. In the winter there isn't enough sunlight anyway. There are some foods which are fortified, but this is not particularly efficient, and may only be enough to maintain your current level.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include depression and anxiety, hair loss, fatigue, muscle and lower back pain, low immunity and slow wound healing. It's estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans.
A supplement is a simple daily routine to get into. Vitamin D supplements are readily-available over the counter.
In addition to your D, a good daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement is a good insurance policy against the trials and tribulations of stress, modern living, environmental toxins and not having a guaranteed, tip-top food intake.
Add to that my old favorite, the daily green smoothie, to get a big quantity of dark leafy greens and the goodness they provide into your body with the minimum of time spent in preparation or chewing.
And finally, the emotional benefits of exercising just can't be underestimated. Getting moving, getting your heart rate up, breathing deeply and getting oxygen into your brain, will burn off your excess nervous energy and increase your endorphin levels - these are 'positive' hormones, and they make an appearance after just ten or fifteen minutes of sustained exercise, even simply taking a walk. A Stanford study found that walking in nature produces unique mood and cognition-enhancing benefits.
Before SAD season really gets underway, it's a good idea to take stock of your current routines. We can't stop the bad news or the cold weather, but we CAN minimize their effect
on our mood and our health.