Temperatures have dropped, trees are getting barer every day and the days have become darker and shorter: winter is here.
This is often the time when people start feeling less energised, with both moods and motivation levels taking a turn for the worst. For some people seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starts kicking in; a form of depression linked to the wintry months’ lack of sunlight.
On top of this there’s that slight feeling of panic that creeps in as the promise of holiday cheer is rudely interrupted by hectic shopping trips and lingering deadlines that fill the days until Christmas, leaving you to wonder how you’re going to manage it all.
If you’re feeling like you have to compromise between feeling good and staying on track with your responsibilities: stop. You don’t have to. Here are some tips to keep productivity levels high and the winter blues at bay.
Make going outside a habit
A lack of sunlight can cause our bodies to increase the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy, and decrease the production of serotonin, which regulates our moods. In other words, sunlight is vital to our performance and the way we feel and we should aim to get as much of it as we can.
So open the blinds in your office, go outside for lunch or schedule 5 or 10 minute breaks to go for a quick walk. Make going out a routine: even if it feels insignificant, your body (and mind!) will thank you for it.
When you feel down you may be more prone to reach for unhealthy ‘comfort foods’ that are usually high in carbohydrates and sugar. To make things worse, this is the season of speciality drinks, mulled wine and mince pies: temptation all round.
A balanced diet will help you feel healthy, ready to fight off any nasty viruses and make it through the day without needing a nap at lunch time. Choose wholegrains, nuts, fatty fish and fresh fruit and veg as these are the ‘brain foods’ that will keep you focused and energised.
Aside from the obvious benefits to your physical health, exercising is linked to the release of serotonin in the brain, which can help improve your mood and help fight off depression. Being active is also proven to reduce stress levels, especially low-level exercise like walking. All the more reason to hit the gym, take a long walk at lunch time or finally sign up for that after-work yoga class. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you do it regularly to outrun SAD’s grip.
Organising your workload will help you to get a clear perspective on exactly what needs to be done and by when, making it that much more manageable. Prioritise tasks and allow yourself enough time to finish them. Don’t forget to schedule in regular breaks too. All of this will help take off some of the pressure of these busy months, making you feel less stressed and more productive.
Feeling overwhelmed or listless seems to almost come with the time of year but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it for what it is and just ride it out until Spring comes around again. So take a step back and reflect on what you are feeling and what you need to make it through the darker days feeling as happy, healthy and motivated as any other season.