A case of the Winter Blues

We’ve noticed a lot of our clients this week have been experiencing a slump in motivation. You’re not alone.
My hunch is that this is SEASONAL, and related to 2 things:
  1. Lack of Vitamin D and sunlight exposure
  2. Caffeine
If you’ve seen my caffeine video, you’ll see that caffeine SUPPRESSES the vitamin D receptor.
If we’re already getting minimal sunlight exposure, then hammering the caffeine in winter is a surefire way to ensure that you’re vitamin D deficient. More on caffeine here.

If you’re like us, your pattern looks like this

  • Wake up early
  • Drive/cycle to work.. it’s dark
  • Go to the office, no windows
  • Hammer the caffeine at the office
  • Finish work.. it’s dark
  • Cycle/drive home… it’s dark

See what’s happening?

Around this time of year, I feel the classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder kicking in. Not sure what to look for?

  • Worsened sleep quality
  • Worsened focus
  • Emotional flatness
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue/slump in motivation to train
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Ruminative thoughts

The solution? I’ve personally just been for a sunbed today, and upping the dose of vitamin D. The effect is pretty rapid – 2-3 days and the symptoms lift. Amazing that such a PHYSICAL intervention can have such a drastic effect on your mental state (assuming that vitamin D is the issue).

Type and Dose

Type: Choose a FAT SOLUBLE gel cap of vitamin D3

Dose: I personally start with 5000-10,000IU for 3-5 days before tapering down to 2500-3000IU per day maintenance

Which brand of vitamin D? I personally use the MyProtein vitamin D3 but if you have a trusted brand, stick with it.

Reason:

  • Decent quality control
  • Cheap
  • Fat soluble, sensibly dosed (2500IU)

 

Most standard boots/Holland&Barrett nonsense is MASSIVELY underdosed (i.e. by a factor of 100!).

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    Watch out for underdosed brands – 10ug = 400IU. We advise 3000-5000IU

 

Sunbeds obviously carry their own risks, you may be thinking I’m an idiot for using one. Fair – they’re unregulated and we’ll maybe find out in a few years that they’re more lethal than we thought. So I’m loathe to recommend them – simply what I do.

Take Away Points

  • Notice the signs
  • Reduce the caffeine
  • Get your vitamin D in

But…Sunbeds?

I’m not going to pretend sunbeds are a healthy thing to do. Melanoma is lethal. The fatality rate is extremely high for those affected, and ultraviolet exposure is a major precipitating factor. Sunbed are linked to melanoma, with some data showing a significant increase in melanoma risk from just 10 lifetime visits.
My personal, (reckless) justification is that I’m not one of the primary racial risk groups for melanoma, and that everyone in my family has died from cardiovascular events. There’s some indication that sunlight could be cardioprotective.
But that doesn’t mean I’m saying it’s a good idea. Bottom line is that I am NOT suggesting you do the same as me. I’m a hypocrite – but I’d rather be a hypocrite than tell you to do something dangerous.

Anything else you can do?

a) Drop/sub the caffeine
Or at least cut your dose – switch to decaf, green tea, whatever. If you’re a heavy user, it might be a bit bumpy, but you’ll quickly re-sensitise yourself to caffeine. When you reintroduce it, you’ll get more out of less.
b) Up the meditation and/or self care
  • Give this another read – when your demands increase, that is PRECISELY the time that you need to keep up with your self-care. It is the thing that keeps you productive and healthy.
  • Don’t skimp on your training, meditation, family time.
  • Carve out time for it and make it sacred.
c) Take care of your inputs
We’re so discerning over what we put into our MOUTHS, but we allow all kinds of bullshit to enter our minds. Your mind is a computer – it spits out what you’ve put in. The world is full of streams of negativity, toxic political agendas and manipulative marketing. Yet we do nothing to filter the firehose of bullshit.
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The radio has no regard for your mental health. It’s a ceaseless siege of banal chatter contributing to our already noisy minds, to meet an agenda of drilling the same 4 songs into our head that the same record company has paid them to play. It’s the easy, default option to play in the car, and it worms its way into our brains.
Your mind is sacred. It’s the only true privacy you’ll ever get, so don’t allow Ed Sheeran stomp around your mental carpet with his muddy ginger boots. Instead, control your input streams.
Around this time of year, we’re vulnerable. We need time to calibrate, and tune in to some uplifting input – whether that’s listening to audiobooks, podcasts, Youtube lectures, that’s for you to decide. But do it consciously. I used to tell myself that I didn’t have time to read. Then I realised I was reading thousands of words from the flipping Facebook news feed, daily. I’ve never come away thinking ‘mmm what a nourishing experience’. Everybody is feeling a bit down at this time of year, and feelings are infectious. So you can use that to your advantage and align yourself with enriching content and insulate yourself from the bullshit.
More on how to harness this to accelerate your physique goals here.

Take-Aways:

  • Tune out of anything that’s ‘pushed’ on to you: phone notifications, radio, TV.
  • Tune IN to the sources you choose.
d) If you’re having suicidal thoughts, see your GP immediately. Even if you don’t feel like you’d ever act on them. There is overlap between seasonal affective disorder and depression, but a bit of vitamin D is NOT going to reliably clear up a serious bout of clinical depression. Anything you read from a fitness website is no substitute for medical treatment.
Something worth mentioning: Men are notoriously shit at seeing professionals for mental health worries. What commonly goes through our heads:
  • ‘Other people have real problems and I’m just clogging the system’
  • ‘I’m a failure if I have to seek help’
  • ‘I’ll be fine/big boys don’t cry/the doc will think I’m a being a baby’
None of these excuses are either true, OR worth delaying on the GP. The reality is that the doctor will be over the moon that you sought help. Depression is more common than anyone lets on. That’s the nature of depression – sufferers won’t be shouting it from the rootfops.
The biggest killer of young men is suicide, (including somebody I know, recently). So many are preventable. If anything resonates here, especially the suicidal thoughts – see your GP.
So that’s it, if you’re suffering from the winter blues, or a motivation slump, see if there are any major gaps in the checklist below and get on it.

Summary

  1. Winter blues
  2. Reduce the caffeine
  3. Up the vitamin D
  4. Don’t skimp on self-care and family time
  5. Control the input streams
  6. Suicidal thoughts? See your GP

The Next Step

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One response to “Motivation slump? How to beat the winter blues

  1. I’ve found a three day water fast to do wonders for my motivation and mood…might be worth considering in addition to the other things you’ve mentioned here like sleep, vitamin D etc…

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