By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
Many people feel let down, a little blue, once the ever-lengthening holiday season finally ends. After all, it began as a joyous and fun time on October 31 with Halloween and will end on January 1, New Year’s Day. Then it’s back to work, back to school, back to normalcy. And to boot, we’re in the middle of damp, dark winter.
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Most behavior experts will say that the blue feeling is quite normal after the indulgences of too much eating, too much partying and, of course, too much spending on holiday mega-sales.
For Some, the Blues Don’t Tend to Vanish Like Old Christmas Trees
But for some people, the blues don’t tend to vanish like old Christmas trees left on the curb for the trash collector. That depressed feeling can linger for several months and have a truly negative effect on sufferers’ job performance.
Indeed, for many people the winter season can be hard to handle. But “it can be especially unbearable for the millions who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that attaches itself to the cold weather,” according to Humanity.
The Cleveland Clinic estimates that “approximately half a million people in the United States suffer from winter SAD, while 10% to 20% may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues.”
Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, and the depression usually starts in early adulthood. SAD also can occur in children and adolescents, but older adults are less likely to experience the disorder.
SAD Sufferers Have Many of the Same Symptoms as Depression
People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression, including:
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- A “leaden” sensation in the limbs
- Increased need for sleep
- Craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain.
The Cleveland Clinic admits that the exact cause of this condition is unknown. But “evidence strongly suggests that, for those who are vulnerable to it, SAD is set off by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with less exposure to sunlight, the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is shifted. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.”
Getting through the Workday when the Weather Is Miserable Can Be a Serious Struggle
Getting through the workday when the weather is miserable and you haven’t seen the sun in weeks can be a serious struggle, Humanity acknowledges. “There are, however, things that you and your employees can do to get through the winter while staying as positive, upbeat and productive as possible.”
The advice from Humanity includes these four tips:
Find a Routine that Works: The morning routine is especially important. Create a routine for yourself that takes your attention away from the weather and focuses it on things that you like to do and actions that make you happy. Trying to figure out what to wear to work every day can be a huge hassle. By keeping it simple and not having to figure out your outfit every day, many people spare themselves the stress 0f dressing up for work .
Go Greener: Having plant life in your office can really help you and your staff beat the winter blues and alleviate the effects of SAD. Active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work, a study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology concluded. “This is accomplished through suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure and promotion of comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings.”
Focus on Your Health: Keeping yourself healthy should be one of your biggest priorities if you want to avoid feeling miserable during the winter season. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are aspects of your health that you really need to focus on most during the winter season.
Set Clear and Realistic Goals: People who suffer from SAD are often overwhelmed when it comes to creating plans and getting things done. That’s why it’s important for people who might not be as naturally productive during the winter to streamline their goals. Also they should try to make the most of the energy and concentration that they have to work with during the colder months. Try to trim your “to-do” list until only the absolute essentials remain. Having “too much noise” in your everyday tasks can cause discouragement and inevitably lead to nothing getting done.
Turn on the Lights: One of the main causes of SAD and other productivity problems that arise when the weather gets cold is the lack of natural light. Make sure to let the sun into your work environment whenever you can. Don’t waste any rays of sunlight. Open the blinds and “soak up the rays.” However, sometimes the clouds arrive; when they do, you’re going to have to replace natural light with artificial illumination.
All the news is not bad, however. The Cleveland Clinic suggests several treatments that are available to help alleviate the effects of SAD. They include phototherapy, also known as bright light therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a very effective psychotherapeutic approach that has produced the longest-lasting effects of any treatment so far.
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