The change from summer to fall season is usually a tough one. Many of the habits we have settled into over the warm summer months are forced to a grinding halt with more rain, less daylight hours, and cooler temperatures. We can also become acutely aware of the loss in momentum at work after a summer of enjoying a bit more fun, and fewer to-do lists. We can feel disoriented as we lose the ease of summer months, are forced to create new routines, and try to find new and meaningful ways to spend our time.
I love the cool fresh air, the beautiful colours, and the natural inclination to rest a bit more that comes with the fall… but there’s always a lull before I’m able to recalibrate and find my groove again in the new season. Anyone else feeling like this!? Here are a few things to think about as we transition into this new season, to keep us feeling happy and healthy.
Set Goals. When we are connected to why we do what we do, it’s much easier to feel inspired by our days. The sense of purpose and direction that goals bring, is like that little hand on your back as your pedal up the hill. It doesn’t mean that things are easy, but it propels you forward with more strength and motivation. The fall is a great time to re-examine goals that we may have been mindlessly working towards. Do we still feel connected to these outcomes? Are these goals inspiring to work towards?
Hydrate. If you aren’t sufficiently replenishing water and electrolytes, you can feel fatigued, dizzy, foggy minded, and headachy. Food cravings, especially cravings for sweets, can also indicate dehydration as water is needed for the release and breakdown of glycogen stores into glucose in the bloodstream. Hydration is also necessary for proper function of the lymphatic system which works to eliminate wastes and inflammation in the body, that can sap our energy if they are able to accumulate.
Balance blood sugar. The body does use glucose for fuel, but it’s very easy to have too much of a good thing in this case. Dysregulated blood sugar can leave us feeling shaky, fatigued, foggy minded, and can greatly affect mood and sleep. Our body requires a balanced supply of quick releasing simple carbohydrates and more complex, slow-releasing sugars for our cellular functions. Insulin is released in response to a rise in blood sugar, to transport sugars out of the bloodstream and into the cells that need it. More sugar leads to a greater release in insulin and can lead to uncomfortable blood sugar crashes. Excess sugars also cause inflammation and cellular oxidation that drain our energy, as our body tries to recover. Proteins and fats can provide more stable slow-burning energy, that doesn’t spike blood sugar in the same way or lead to the eventual crash.
Move. Exercise helps to maintain blood sugar levels, promote circulation, reduce stress levels, and support our body in its ability to detoxify. This benefits several of the factors that affect our energy levels. With balanced blood sugar, reduced stress levels, and optimal detoxification, our energy levels are more balanced and optimized. Be aware of what the right amount of exercise is for you! If you are already really stressed or exhausted, gentle movement is much more beneficial than a run or HIIT workout.
Manage Stress. The key here is cortisol balance. Our bodies have a natural diurnal rhythm, where cortisol is highest in the morning so we feel alert, and lower in the evening to optimize sleep. When we are dealing with acute or chronic stressors, our natural cortisol patterns can shift where we end up feeling like exhausted coffee fiends by day, and wired but tired zombies by night. Stress also affects our blood sugar balance. Whether mental, emotional, or physical, stress causes the release of epinephrine which then triggers the release of sugar in the bloodstream. Stimulants such as caffeine, also have this effect.
Sleep. We all know how important sleep is, I know it doesn’t need to be harped on, but I do want to convey that there are different reasons why we may be having difficulties. The most common reasons I see that result in poor quality sleep, are blood sugar dysregulation, and hormone imbalances. Cortisol, thyroid hormones, and estrogen and progesterone are the most commonly implicated hormones. These can all be assessed using labs to identify where best to support the body to establish balance. The glymphatic system, our brain and central nervous system’s lymphatic system, does its best work while we sleep. Therefore, this is a crucial time for the delivery of nutrients to brain cells and washing away of wastes and inflammation. A better nourished, less inflamed central nervous system, means clearer thinking, happier brains.
Balance immune function. Anything that causes inflammation in the body takes energy from our immune systems, as they constantly try to clean up the waste. This leaves less energy available to fight the common cold or flu, and inevitably less energy for our bodies and minds. Our diet is the main source of inflammation, as the food choices we make repeatedly every day of our lives, inevitably make a huge impact over time. I am a big fan of understanding food sensitivities, as well as being aware of foods that either promote or reduce inflammation, in order to inform our individual diets.
Nourish. Sometimes our metabolic needs surpass what our body is able to produce, or what we are physically able to ingest/digest/absorb. We may not be absorbing the nutrients we need for metabolic functions if we are letting our nutrition slip, digestion is poor, or if we are simply chronically stressed and the body (thinks it) has better things to do than digest food. When we notice certain areas slipping, in this case, our energy and mood, there are a few key supplements to consider.
Vitamin D3. Many of us will feel big changes in our energy as our exposure to the sun diminishes over the fall and winter. Although our bodies continue to produce vitamin D, we lack the sunshine to promote the activation of the vitamin that provides many of its benefits. We may feel less energetic, lower mood, and more susceptible to colds and flus.
B-complex. The B vitamins are all very crucial in energy production and a multitude of other metabolic functions. B vitamins are involved in several reactions in the body that contribute to our sense of well-being, most notably production of ATP in the cells, and neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are part of the fine balance that allows for feelings of joy, contentment, and wellbeing.
Vitamin C. Supports adrenal function and is a key antioxidant that supports immune function as well. When our immune system is burdened, it consumes more of our energy to fight off the daily exposures of pathogens.
Fish oils. Fish oils are very anti-inflammatory in the body, and also supply the building blocks to soothe and nourish our nervous system. Our brain also works best off of fats for fuel, and fish oils are excellent in supporting brain function and healthy mood balance.
If you are struggling with changes in energy or mood this fall season, don't hesitate to reach out for help navigating the transition. Wishing you all a happy and healthy fall and winter season!