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How to Keep the “Winter Blues” from Affecting Your Productivity

How to keep the "winter blues" from affecting your productivity

I love the seasons. Living in the Northwest for most of my life, I cherish our (relatively short) summers the most. It’s a running joke, but not entirely inaccurate that summer doesn’t really start until after the 4th of July. But from early July until about the end of September, there’s no placed I’d rather be. The days are long and beautiful. Temperature in the 70s and 80s most days. There’s lots of outdoor recreation to enjoy, and the pace feels a bit more relaxed.

Secondary to summer, I love Fall. Fall brings the crisp mornings and evenings, comfort foods, football and the glorious changing colors. Spring is great as things bloom, the days get longer, and everything feels fresh. Winter is lovely also; at least most of it. We get an occasional snow, which is beautiful. The holidays and focus on family are a winter bonus, and there’s something about bundling up and feeling the cool air on your face that’s refreshing and energizing. Until the short days, ongoing rainy and cloudy days feel like they’re going to drag on just a bit too long once again.

For those of you in a sunny, southern location, this blog post may not apply. But for those of you in cool and grey locations, you may know exactly what the title of this blog is referring to. According to Psychology Today, the “winter blues”, clinically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. While SAD affects people differently, among the symptoms listed by Psychology Today are:

  • Hypersomnia or a tendency to oversleep
  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • A drop in energy level
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Why This Year May Feel Worse for Some

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you may be feeling the affects of SAD more this year than usual. The city of Seattle recorded measurable rain in 28 of the 30 days of November (the average is 18). And December and the beginning of January have not been much different.

But even if you do not live an area that has experienced extra grey this year, you may still be feeling the effects more than usual. According to Yale Medicine, the affects of the COVID pandemic can enhance feelings of SAD. Reasons for this include spending more time inside than usual (aside from the weather), lower levels of light in homes than at offices, and reduced social interaction.

How SAD Can Impact Your Productivity

Energy and motivation are two key components that make us productive, and SAD can diminish both of these. When a person is feeling fatigued, unhappy, and/or distracted, they are not able to be their most productive. They may spend more time in bed or on the couch. They may find themselves easily distracted or just staring outside looking for a glimpse of sunshine. Or they may find it harder to get motivated to tackle a large or difficult project because it just seems too overwhelming.

So How do You Keep the “Winter Blues” from Affecting your Productivity?

While experts recommend a variety of ways to fight the “winter blues”, the most prevalent are light therapy (exposure to an artificial light source to activate serotonin production in the brain), physical exercise, and social interaction. Each of these take on additional importance during the pandemic as more people are working from home, holiday parties may be reduced or cancelled, and some are staying home more often for health reasons.

Also, if you are feeling the effects of SAD this season, do not hesitate to reach out for help. If you are having trouble motivating yourself to exercise more, find a “workout partner” or hire a personal trainer. Reach out to friends for additional social opportunities. And, if SAD is having a serious impact on your life, do not hesitate to contact a licensed therapist.

Want more ideas for how to keep the “winter blues” from affecting your productivity? The Productivity Coaches at Simply Placed can be a resource for you. Our individual coaching, consulting, and accountability sessions can help provide the focus, motivation and follow-through that is needed to beat the “winter blues”. Sign up today for a free Discovery Call to see how Simply Placed can help.

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