It’s now November at the workplace. The enthusiasm of autumn has faded as the beautifully colored leaves step aside and let in the grays and whites of the winter season. The winter blues are a real thing not only in the workplace but in general.
The cold weather and lack of sunbeams peeking through your window are making getting out of bed an absolute chore. Along with all of the work you have to put in to close the year out successfully, it seems as if you have another full-time job to handle – avoiding sick coworkers and getting home healthy.
The winter season can be hard to handle for many people, but it can be especially unbearable for the millions who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that attaches itself to the cold weather.
If you find yourself feeling increasingly lethargic and in a very negative mood most of the time during the winter, there’s a good chance that you have SAD to some degree. Most experts believe that the lack of sunlight during the winter season throws off the body’s rhythm and leads to hormonal changes as well as a decrease in the production of serotonin, the chemical your brain produces when you have a lot of energy and are in a good mood.
Whether you suffer from SAD or not, getting through the workday when the weather is miserable and you haven’t seen the sun in weeks can be a serious struggle. There are, however, things that you and your employees can do to get through the winter while staying as positive, upbeat and productive as possible.
Find a Routine That Works
One of the best ways to avoid a wintertime funk is to create a routine for yourself that takes your attention away from the weather and focuses it on things that you like to do and actions that make you happy.
The morning routine is especially important during the winter, considering how hard it can be to get out of your warm bed when the winter chill creeps through your home. In order to create a positive morning routine, you need to not only find and adopt the actions that make you feel good, you also need to identify all of the triggers that can cause you stress during the morning and cut them out completely.
Why do you think that people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many other successful professionals wear nearly the same outfit to work every single day? Because trying to figure out what to wear to work every day can be a huge hassle. By keeping it simple and not having to figure out your outfit every single day, many people spare themselves the stress that dressing up for work can entail.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who benefit from getting dressed up every morning. Instead of simply wearing the same jeans – or even worse, sweats – every day, dressing up and putting effort into their image helps many people get out of their seasonal depression.
It really all depends on the individual and being able to identify what rituals they can use to start their days off on the right foot. Whether it’s meditation, going to the gym or putting in the effort to make yourself a lovely breakfast before heading out to your job, try to find what makes you happy in the morning and throughout the day and force yourself to participate in these activities even when you’re feeling completely dejected and you’d rather just pull the covers over your head and hibernate for the next three months.
Did you know that having plant life in your office can really help you and your staff beat the winter blues? There have been many studies conducted to confirm this. One study claims that interaction with indoor plants can reduce psychological and physiological stress.
There was also a study conducted recently in Holland that confirms the same for patients who need to stay for a prolonged period of time in hospitals. This study performed by Virginia Lohr of Washington State University claims that even workers who are on their computers all day see an increase in productivity and lower blood pressure when they are working in a room that is full of plant life.
The presence of plants at the workplace boost productivity and it helps workers to feel refreshed and focused. And even if you’re running a business where you can’t really have that many plants around, simply because of the scope of your work, you can include images of nature in paintings and perhaps murals somewhere in the office.
The human brain creates a connection with visuals of nature, which immediately results in a feeling of being able to interact with nature and being outdoors. This, in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. Of course, it’s wise not to clutter your workspace with too many plants, but adding a bit more greenery to the scenery can certainly do wonders for you and your staff members who are having trouble facing the reality of the winter and its lack of colors and stimulating images of a green and budding natural world.
Focus on Your Health
No matter how hard it seems, focusing on your health and keeping yourself healthy should be one of your biggest priorities if you want to avoid feeling miserable during the winter season. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are aspects of your health that you really need to focus on most during the winter season.
One of the main reasons for focusing on your health is so that you can have a better chance of avoiding colds and all of the nasty viruses that can spread around the office during the winter. By keeping your mind and body strong and healthy, you are helping your immune system to battle these threats.
Exercise is another very important aspect of mental health. Of course, not everyone can be an athlete and not everyone can log two hours at the gym every day, but in reality, no one needs to be doing that to get the amount of exercise they need to stay positive and productive. Taking a half-hour-long walk every day during your lunch break could be enough.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a study that shows that exercise can help improve the sleep partners of just about everyone, even people who suffer from insomnia.
It’s also important not to forget that people who are feeling depressed, especially during the winter, can turn to negative ways of coping with these feelings, such as an increase in alcohol consumption or overeating and eating so-called “comfort food” that is unhealthy for them. Exercise also acts as an anti-depressive and sends similar signals of euphoria and happiness to the brain, which can keep you from making bad decisions and help you to remain energetic and positive even during the coldest of winters.
This study by the Karolinska Institutet claims that exercise actually prevents the brain from being damaged by the chemical effects of depression.
Getting through the winter when you aren’t a winter person is all about staying focused and making smart decisions that are going to help you cope, like eating well, drinking a lot of water, exercising and getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. It might not be easy, but trying to live a healthy life over the winter will definitely pay dividends emotionally, physically and mentally in the long run.
Set Clear and Realistic Goals
People who suffer from SAD are often overwhelmed when it comes to creating plans and getting things done. Many people who suffer from this type of depression say that it’s a kind of “mental mist” they experience, which doesn’t allow them to think very clearly. That’s why it’s important for people who might not be as naturally productive during the course of the winter to really streamline their goals and try to make the most of the energy and concentration that they have to work with during the colder months.
If you already have some type of a “to-do” list at work, take a look at it again and try to trim it until only the absolute essentials remain. Having too much noise in your everyday tasks can cause discouragement and inevitably lead to nothing getting done.
If there are any big projects that you need to tackle, try to break them down into small increments and focus on these small projects one by one instead of trying to deal with a giant project and being overwhelmed by it.
And if you just can’t seem to get anything going, take a break. Do something else and then go back to the projects and tasks that you find daunting when you feel that you are up for the challenge. Sometimes it’s all about simply getting by for people with SAD. Get through the winter being as productive as possible and when the winter thaws and you start feeling better as spring approaches, then you can ramp up your work goals and take on the big projects that seemed so insurmountable to you while the weather was cold.
Turn on the Lights
One of the biggest causes of SAD and any other productivity problems that arise when the weather gets cold is the lack of natural light that a person is exposed to on a regular basis.
Because of this, you need to make sure to let the sun into your work environment whenever you can. Don’t waste any rays of sunlight that the winter provides you with, open up the blinds and soak them up. However, winter often isn’t very cooperative when it comes to sunlight. Sometimes the clouds arrive and they overstay their welcome. In times like this, you’re going to have to substitute natural light with artificial light.
If you’re working at a desk, getting yourself a lamp or something that’s going to provide you with more light, even when your office is dark. Remember, not everyone has problems coping with the winter, so a lot of times, the rest of your coworkers won’t mind working in the dark and not turning on the lights.
However, if you are a manager, it can’t hurt to encourage everyone in your team to keep the lights bright during the winter for the sake of the people who really need it to get through the day.
Remember, as a manager, whether you suffer from SAD or not, there is probably a solid percentage of people at your workplace who find it tough to work when the weather is cold and the sunlight is missing from their work days. Do everything you can to help them out and take care of their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Helping yourself and your workers get through the winter will undoubtedly result in a stronger, more engaged, happier and more productive workforce once the spring season returns.