The months right before spring are often the longest of the year. With snow still pummeling much of the country and ice-cold temperatures still settling in, many experience exhaustion or, “Winter Fatigue.”
Winter fatigue settles in after the holidays with our body producing more melatonin in response to less sunshine and more gloom. Mayo Clinic states that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) hits hardest during the long, winter months. From the biological clock to a drop in serotonin and melatonin levels, the human body craves the vitamin D that sunshine provides.
Harvard Health recommends light box therapy to help with mood regulation. Using for just 30 minutes can assist with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Harvard Health explains, “Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.”
While sunshine helps a great deal, Dr. Velimir Petkov DPM of Primer Podiatry believes winter is a great time to practice self-care with feet and ankles. “The number one complaint that brings people to my office is heel pain (plantar fasciitis.) Sufficient rest and proper stretching can help alleviate heel pain, especially when combined with supportive footwear and custom orthotics that fit well.” Here are three, two-minute exercises to help elevate your mood and regulate stress from Dr. Petkov:
Achilles tendon stretch
Put your hands against a wall and keep your legs and feet parallel to each other. Bend your left knee and extend your right leg as far back as possible while keeping both feet fully weighted on the ground. As you bend your left knee and keep your right leg as far back as possible, you will begin to feel stretching in the back of your right calf muscle, which will result the stretching of the Achilles. This exercise should take no more than 25-30 seconds. Switch sides in order to stretch the opposite one. In 2 minutes, you should be able to do 2 sets of the exercises on each side.
Plantar fascia (heel) stretches
To stretch the soft tissues underneath the heel and ball of your foot: sit up straight in your chair and grab a foam or massage roller. If you don’t have one on hand, a cold or frozen water bottle works well. Gently roll your foot back and forth on it from heel to toe. Don’t apply too much pressure. Do this for 1-5 minutes, depending on how much you can tolerate. Using a foot massage roller or a small, nubbed ball can help you make the most of this stretching exercise and find temporary relief.
Lift your ankles clear off the floor. Begin flexing and extending them, repeating the motion 8-12 times with each ankle. To get an even deeper stretch, cross your ankle over the thigh of your opposite leg while sitting in your chair. Pull your foot back into a pointed position with your hands and hold it for 30 seconds.