Beating the Winter Blues at the Office

Here in the United States, we are right in the middle of winter. The excitement of the holidays is over, the momentum of New Year’s resolutions may have faded, and we have quite a few more months until warm weather seasons. On the East Coast, daylight is only available to us between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. For most of us working conventional office hours it means we rarely see the light of day.

Whether you are aware of it or not, the winter doldrums affect us and our productivity. For most of us, we barely notice the change since it affects us so mildly, but we may feel our energy has been zapped. But up to 20% percent of us will feel noticeable fatigue, apathy, increased appetite, sleep problems, and/or mood changes. For 5% of us, the winter blues are severe enough to be medically diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Interestingly, the incidence of SAD depends on your climate; only 1% of Floridians are affected while 10% of New Hampshire residents will suffer.

Aside from taking a week-long vacation in the tropics, what can we do about this? If the severity of your winter blues doesn’t warrant medical attention, there are a few quick and simple lifestyle changes you can make to increase your energy level this season.

Exercise Regularly

Engaging in some form of activity each day is the easiest way to manage your energy levels. Some find that exercising in the mornings can even be a good substitute for that daily coffee (although I’m not one of them!). If you can, try to squeeze in an outdoor walk during your lunch.

Rearrange Your Desk

Declutter your working space so you have more room to work and can feel organized. If your office has a window, consider replacing dark shades with light curtains. Another idea is to turn your desk so you face toward a window.

Lighten Up

If you can’t get outside and there are no windows near your workspace, a decent alternative is an artificial blue light, or simply, switching to full-spectrum light bulbs. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, light from specifically the blue part of the spectrum activates the areas in our brain that play a key role in our ability to process emotions. This means that handling emotional challenges that crop up throughout our day is easier and takes less out of us. Other studies have also shown that blue light can improve alertness and mental performance.

Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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