Who better to advise on how to shake off the wintertime blues than the good people of Sweden! When I visited the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm last year, I wasn’t surprised to see that they put in a lot of effort into helping students and staff to offset SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) syndrome and general feelings of lethargy and tiredness during the cold dark winter days. The Light Room was a surprise though. I have friends who have a Light box for this purpose, but I’d never heard of a whole room dedicated to warding off SAD. This specialised remedy for beating the wintertime blues is not available to most of us, but other physical and nutritional remedies, including getting exercise, spending time in the sunshine, doing yoga, taking Vitamin D and generally eating a good diet are also listed on Karolinska’s website.
Our Biological clock can affect our energy levels throughout the year and even throughout the day – I’m sure those of you working on circadian rhythms would have lots to say on this subject. But without the help of a Light Box, what else can we do to remain functional and effective? Since writing my January blog post on reflection, I’ve been reflecting on previous postings I’ve written since setting up my website and one that seems especially relevant is “Carpe PM!”, published in 2011. It was during winter and I was talking about the lethargy and lack of motivation I was feeling about writing my careers book. It made me smile as nothing has changed over the past seven years (although the book is published!); I still suffer from despondency and low energy levels from time to time, even in the Summer. So I’m sharing some tips with those of you who feel the same way and perhaps you can suggest some of your own on my Twitter hashtag #wintertimeblues
- Work out which is your most productive time of the day (mine used to be from 8pm until around 2am when I was young, but it’s shifted to 8am until 2pm) and try to use this time to do things that require the most effort and motivation.
- Make a list or a mind map of all the things you need to do. Prioritise them in whatever ways will help to get you moving – it could be a mix of difficult tasks and relatively easy tasks so that you can tick off the substantial work along with quick wins.
- Break up your time between doing practical, administrative, creative and thinking tasks to help to ring the changes. We all have our favoured tasks so try not to focus too much on these, whilst neglecting those which you find boring or repetitive.
- Work with others, even remotely, to discuss what you’re doing and agree a time to ‘meet up’. This creates a deadline which can act as a motivator for you to work towards.
- Set yourself a time slot for a particular task of say one or two hours. Aim to focus solely on this task during that time with a suitable reward at the end of it, such as favourite food, a walk, film, sports etc.
- Give yourself breaks that are timetabled into your schedule so that you structure your day into manageable chunks of work and ‘play’ times. I make dates to meet up for a cuppa, lunch or even a Skype with friends at least once a day, but you may find that something else acts as an enjoyable respite from rigorous brain activity or concentration.
Addendum: For those of you in other parts of the world, whose winter is actually hot and sunny, who are wondering how this blog can be relevant for them: Well, you never know, your next post may take you to a more northerly country so you’ll be well-prepared! And, of course, don’t forget to bring a big coat and sturdy umbrella with you ?