Family Programs Mission: provide education, support and resources through community, state, and federal programs, to ensure service members, families, and veterans have the knowledge and resiliency to support mission readiness and retention.
By LTC David Leonard USA (Ret)
| Dec. 31, 2019
Some folks monitor the sunrise and sunset times very closely this time of year. Why? Because after the winter solstice on 21 December, every day the time of sunset becomes ever-so-slightly later. The sunset on 1 January 2020 will be 1624 or 4:24pm compared to 1614 or 4:14pm on 1 December, 2019. It is only a difference of 10 minutes-but I will take it. To me, it represents getting that much closer to more daylight, longer days and more opportunities to do things outside.
The longer nights and shorter days of winter can disrupt our internal clocks; our bodies may produce more melatonin (which your brain produces when it is dark) and less serotonin (a mood regulator effected by the reduced sunlight of winter). So it is important to be aware of how going to work in the dark and going home after work in the dark may affect you.
But, there are things we can do while waiting for the days to get longer:
-Whenever possible, go outside during daylight hours; sunlight, even in small doses can help boost serotonin levels and improve our moods. That could be a short walk outside, opening blinds and drapes, sitting near windows. Daylight simulation bulbs may help as well.
-You have heard this a million times: exercising regularly can be as effective as medication! Find exercises that are continuous or rhythmic like walking, strength training, swimming or dancing.
-Reach out to family and friends and let them help you! Our instincts may be to retreat into ourselves, but being around people will boost your mood-but try to avoid those that may have Eeyore’s outlook
-I know you have heard this a million times as well: diet, diet and oh, yeah-diet. We tend to crave more sugary foods and simple carbs like pasta and white bread during this time of year-which would be fine if we were bears and getting ready to hibernate. Better choices may be whole grain bread or oatmeal, brown rice and bananas. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats like fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds can improve our moods.
-Finally, take steps to deal with stress. This is a hard one as what part of our lives does not have some kind of stress? Well, that is what you need to figure out. What activity brings you joy and fun? Is there something you used to like to do that you stopped doing? Is that dancing, playing the piano, painting or just hanging out with friends? Don’t forget the benefits of meditation or yoga-these activities can help you manage stress. As always, Family Programs is here to help, do not hesitate to connect with us if we can assist.
All the Best,
DAVID C. LEONARD
Lieutenant Colonel, USA (Ret)
Director, Family Programs
Vermont National Guard