Supporting Your Endo Health Through the Winter
Last updated: November 2022
To me, winter is a time for slowing down. This can often be helpful for those of us with endo because the fear of missing out and social demands that we experience earlier in the year typically reduce.
As a result, so we can spend more time looking after our health and choosing social activities that are more endo friendly.
As an endo health coach, I try to embrace the autumn and winter as an opportunity to spend more time looking after myself in a way that the busy outdoor summer vibes and the ‘new year, new you push’ don’t always allow.
Of course, the effects of the darker months can be felt mentally and emotionally. By embracing winter, we can hopefully reduce these issues and reap some benefits.
Remember to supplement with vitamin D and get the proper support if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Getting through the winter months with endo
Here are my tips for making the most out of winter with endo.
Get more sleep
Many of us with endometriosis have something called HPA axis dysfunction, with a low cortisol output. This means we have less energy to power ourselves through the day and often feel burned out, fatigued, and overwhelmed.1
One of the key ways to improve cortisol is to get into a regular sleep-wake cycle and to get enough sleep. Adults typically need between 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health, but people with health problems may need more, which is true for my clients.
Getting into a good sleep routine can be difficult when the summer sun calls us to stay up late and get up early, but with the evenings starting earlier and sunrise starting later, it’s far easier to get into the sleepy mood.
Take advantage of the dark evenings by creating a cozy atmosphere and a sleep routine that feels enjoyable rather than a chore. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, if possible, or at least as close to the same time. This will start teaching your cortisol levels when to rise in the morning and fall in the evening naturally.
Light triggers a surge in healthy cortisol levels in the morning; as the light fades into darkness, levels fall, and melatonin rises. The problem is people with HPA axis don’t have cortisol levels behaving as they should, so regulating it with light can be very helpful.
The other issue is that modern technology omits blue light, suppressing melatonin production and increasing cortisol. While that may seem good for those with low cortisol, the aim is not to have high cortisol levels at night, but low levels, so we can sleep properly and wake feeling refreshed.2
The great thing about dark winter nights is that they encourage those cozy hygge vibes. Candles, fires, and red and amber-colored lighting are all great for stimulating melatonin production and lowering cortisol. You can buy specialist light bulbs or just (carefully) dim your lighting with pink or orange-toned fabrics.
Low, warm lighting, however, is not enough if you’re staring at your laptop screen and scrolling until midnight. At the very least, switch your devices to night mode and, ideally, change the tone to a red hue. If you can afford blue light-blocking screens, that’s ideal.
Try a light alarm clock if you struggle to wake up in the dark mornings or have SAD. These are so much better than some blaring beep! Or look into getting a SAD lamp. These will help to trigger cortisol production in the morning, known as the cortisol awakening response.
Have self-care nights with friends or family
Traveling around a lot and feeling the pull of the summer sun can leave us burnt out and exhausted, but winter socializing tends to be lower-key. Cinema trips, early dinners in dim restaurants, coffee dates, and cozy nights can let us slow down and spend time with loved ones.
A great benefit is that these social dates can involve self-care and allows us to invite our friends into a socializing that better suits our needs (as opposed to the often alcohol-fueled, late-night shenanigans of the summer). You could try a pamper evening, check out a new healthy restaurant, or go for gentle autumnal walks together.
How do you get through these dark winter months? Share in the comments!
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