Winter days are shorter, and winter nights are longer, so we find ourselves waking up in the morning and coming home from work in the dark. In colder climates we may find ourselves outside less and indoors more. Fortunately, we just have to survive a few more months before the flowers come into bloom. As a career coach and licensed clinical social worker, I notice a big difference in my clients’ moods between the winter and summer months. My clients report a decrease in work satisfaction during the winter, and they are more likely to struggle with paying attention to work tasks, getting through the workday, and feeling bluesy when they come home.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs when signs of depression begin and end at the same time every year. Symptoms include increased anxiety, mood changes, overeating, sleepiness and more. Sometimes it is called “winter blues.” According to Mental Health America, four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women. Whether or not you suffer from SAD, it is important to take care of yourself in the winter months both at work and at home so that your personal and professional situations do not suffer. Try these tips to help get through the winter months and thrive.
- Take walks. With the limited hours of sunlight, getting outside is important. Ask coworkers to take walks with you. If your work requires a lot of networking, such as owning your own business, ask colleagues to walk with you instead of going to a coffee shop. Walking is a good way to socialize, to get to know your colleagues, and to enjoy the benefits of the vitamin D that sunlight provides.
- Socialize. During the winter months many people work through lunches and limit social time. If you enjoy connecting with supervisors and coworkers, and you have good relationships with them, schedule lunch time or other opportunities to connect. The benefit of social time at work is that it allows you to focus attention and energy on something other than work. Additionally, another benefit of setting times to connect is that you can build stronger relationships.
- Take breaks. We live in a society that values overworking and grinding through the day. We often lose touch with ourselves because we are in action all day. When you take a break, even just for five minutes, do something to get in touch with yourself. Meditate, listen to music, stretch, or just breathe. We often focus on things outside ourselves and fail to develop a relationship with ourselves, so this could be perhaps the most important thing you do throughout the day. We often think breaks will take time away from work, but often with a break we come back refreshed and more productive.
Outside of work:
- Schedule personal time and keep it sacred. We often put other’s time, especially if we have children, ahead of our own. In the winter months we also tend to use downtime to binge watch Netflix and favorite television shows instead of pursuing activities that we would during the spring and summer months. Instead, schedule personal time and honor it as much as you would your professional obligations. When scheduling that time, plan things that you enjoy other than watching television. If you enjoy crafting, go craft. If you enjoy reading, go read. This will help bring more work/life balance into your life and change things up when they are getting stale.
- Set aside time with loved ones. Like the advice of scheduling personal time and keeping it sacred, do this with loved ones as well. Make sure this time is separate from going to the movies and watching Netflix. Whether the time is spent playing board games or going to a museum, make sure the time is interactive and focuses on connection.
- Dress yourself beautifully. You may put on the same clothing every week because it does not constrain and feels more comfortable, and you may start associating this clothing with feeling down during the winter. Get rid of clothing that you associate with not feeling good about yourself. Even if you have gained a few pounds and want to lose it, purchase a few items or attend a clothing swap to get things that make you feel beautiful. When you wear things that make you feel beautiful, it helps increase your confidence both inside and outside the work setting. You are amazing and have so much to offer, and you should show it both in your confidence and in your outward appearance. This approach also helps boost positive attitude during the winter months.
- Move your body. During the winter, we may stop working out and doing the activities that excite us during the summer. Do things to move your body, like working out, stretching, walking around a mall or museum, dancing in your living room, getting a massage, or anything else. The idea is to provide moments to allow yourself to feel you and not disassociate from your body. Activity helps you get out of negative thoughts and focus on how you feel, as opposed to what you think.
- Seek support. Talk to loved ones and friends. Winter can be long, but you do not have to get through it alone. Make sure you ask for help because often you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings. Be sure to reciprocate and listen to others since that will help you move outside yourself and not wallow. Of course, if you need more intervention such as therapeutic or medial support, seek out a licensed therapist or medical doctor/nurse practitioner.
More than anything, the way to get out of the winter blues is to bring acts of intention, connection with yourself and others, and mindfulness into your day. These actions can help you get out of negative thoughts and turn your attention towards yourself and others. If you already feel yourself in a grind, or if your head is overwhelmed with negative thoughts at the moment, refocus yourself. Every moment is a moment that you can make a new choice.