By Kerry Riley, PGE and Wellness Coach
The cold, dark days of winter can have a big impact on our mood and our energy levels – which isn’t great for maintaining productivity at work. And as we head into the thick of tax season, that’s bad news for accountants dealing with hundreds of tax returns!
Here are 9 strategies to help you stay bright eyed and bushy tailed and beat the winter blues.
1 Accept and embrace the winter
You can’t change the weather or the short days or the cold, so embrace it. Yes, it’s freezing outside but the winter landscape can be absolutely beautiful. So, wrap yourself up in a warm coat, hat and gloves and make the most of it. If it’s snowing, build a snowman or have a snowball fight. If it’s raining, get your wellies on and jump in the puddles. You don’t have to be a child to have fun! Find the enjoyment in the winter months.
There’s nothing like the feeling of coming back into the warmth when you’ve been out in the cold. Make your home a cosy, welcoming place where you can relax and recharge, ready to face the world again. Scandinavian countries with long winters and little daylight embrace the concept of hygge – being cosy, comfortable and content. Whether it’s flickering candlelight or a real fire, a soft blanket to wrap yourself up in, or just a sense of wellbeing from being with your family and friends, it doesn’t matter. Do whatever makes you feel happy.
3 Staying healthy
I think most of us would agree that it’s harder to exercise and to eat healthily in winter. Lack of daylight has a real impact on our bodies, disrupting our biological clock and leaving us feeling sluggish, sleepy and often just wanting to hibernate. But of course, the less we exercise the more sluggish we feel and it’s hard to get out of that vicious circle once it starts.
So, here’s a tip I picked up from Mel Robbins, a lawyer, TV host, author and speaker – it’s called the 5 Second Rule. When there’s something we know we have to do (like exercise), but we really don’t feel like doing it, we can talk ourselves out of it very easily. So instead, of arguing with yourself about whether to do it, the best way to do it, the best time to do it etc, just count down from 5 – 5, 4, 3, 2 1 and then go! Whether it’s getting out of bed, putting on your running shoes or heading outside for a walk, by the time you reach ‘go’ you should have made a movement to make it happen.
When it comes to eating healthily, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s fine to have some treats and with all the Christmas specialities in the shops, it would be tough to deny yourself everything. But keep an eye on exactly what you are eating. Food packaging can be misleading so remember to read the labels and check for high sugar, fat or salt content. If you aim for eating healthily 80% of the time, for the remaining 20% you can have whatever you want (in moderation).
4 Move your body
Which music makes you feel good? Which song gets you up and dancing as soon as you hear the intro? Music connects directly to our emotions and it can be a quick fix to boost our mood and energy levels. So, switch on the music that you know gets you going, turn it up loud and start moving. If you’re in the office, get everyone else moving too!
5 Read something inspiring
There are hundreds of thousands of books out there that claim they will inspire you. Some of them are brilliant; some of them are, frankly, a sham. It’s a very personal thing but finding a book that really does inspire you can be hugely energising and even, without going over the top, life-changing. (There’s a list of some of the books that have inspired the AVN team on the KnowHow Hub here – login or subscribe to view).
6 Stay socially active
Of course, once you’ve made your home cosy and hygge-friendly, you might be tempted never to leave it! But it’s important for your wellbeing to stay active and keep doing activities that bring you into contact with others. Make the effort to meet up with friends, to book for events, to take part in what’s happening in your locality. And do this with your clients too. They are likely to be feeling exactly the same as you do, so get in touch and arrange a meeting or just have a coffee together. They will really appreciate you thinking about them.
7 Get outside
The low light levels at this time of year can actually make us depressed. You may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that’s triggered when the days start to shorten. This is a recognised mental health condition and treatment is available. You don’t have to put up with feeling low all the time so talk to your GP if you think you be affected. One of the treatments for SAD is maximising your exposure to light and this is effective even if you just feel a bit down, rather than full blown SAD. Make it a priority to get outside in the daylight and organise your home and workspace so you’re in as much light as possible.
Vitamin D can also help to boost our mood. At other times of year, we absorb the vitamin from sunlight, directly through exposed skin, but in winter this is obviously not possible. Taking a supplement can make a big difference and in fact it’s Government advice to consider taking a daily supplement throughout the autumn and winter.
8 Know your coping mechanisms
You probably already use some simple strategies to cope when things get too much. It might be getting up and going for a short walk, closing your eyes and switching off for a few minutes, blasting out your favourite tune (see above!) or simply taking a deep, slow breath to bring down your stress levels. You know what works for you but sometimes we just need a reminder to actually do it.
9 Plan ahead
Give yourself something to look forward to – a holiday, days out, a special meal. Make that booking now for next year and put it in your diary. It’s a reminder that we will come out the other side!
For even more tips and strategies to beat the winter blues, catch up with Kerry’s webinar on this topic in the AVN KnowHow Hub (in the Wellness category).