Combating Winter Blues at Work
Hi there! It’s Brooke again.
I’ve lived in Montana my whole life and winters have always left me a little down. After the excitement of a snowy and cozy Christmas wears off, January and February seem never ending. It can really affect my productivity at work. I know I’m not the only person who gets a little down during the winter months, but did you know for some of us it’s more than winter blues?
Seasonal Affective Disorder presents like depression, but it is typically linked to specific seasons. The most common variant of SAD occurs in autumn or winter when the days are short and grey. It’s especially prevalent in places like Montana that have long, dark winters. It occurs because the decreased amount of sunshine causes a chemical imbalance in the brain, often directly related to serotonin levels.
According to Mental Health America, roughly five percent of Americans suffer from SAD. This number varies depending on the area. Regions with cloudier winters, like Montana, have a higher percentage of residents with SAD. For example, a study by the National Institute of Health mentions that the percentage of SAD in Florida is only 1% while states further north have higher percentages such as Alaska at 9%.
If you’re experiencing seasonal depression, we recommend talking with your doctor. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. We’re great at what we do, but we aren’t doctors. In the meantime…
Here are three tips for combating winter blues (or SAD) to help you stay effective at your job:
- Invest in a “Happy Lamp”
Since one of the main causes of SAD is lack of sufficient sunlight, light therapy is one of the most effective ways to manage seasonal depression. It can help 50 to 80 percent of people with seasonal affective disorder.
An effective way to supplement the light you’re missing out on is to invest in what is called a “happy lamp.” These light therapy boxes produce white light at about 10,000 lumens per square meter. Traditional indoor lights produce about 100 lumens, while the sun produces 50,000 + lumens. So, while happy lamps aren’t as effective as natural sunlight they can definitely help if the shortened winter days keep you from getting as much sunshine as you normally do.
Google “happy lamp” and you’ll find several brands to choose from. Amazon has happy lamps ranging from roughly $40 to almost $200. Note that these lamps are supposed to block harmful ultraviolet light, but not all do. Double check before you spend your money.
Most doctors recommend that you spend 20 to 30 minutes per day sitting directly in front of your happy lamp. I’d suggest doing this in the morning since the light can interfere with your circadian rhythm by preventing your body from making enough melatonin. And, getting good rest is vitally important for maintaining mental health.
- Take vitamin D
Researchers have noticed that people with SAD often have low levels of Vitamin D. The National Institute of Health says these low levels of vitamin D are usually caused by insufficient exposure to sunshine. The study also shows that people who live 33 degrees north of the equator aren’t properly able to synthesize Vitamin D from November through February.
This means even if you are getting outside every day and regularly spending time in front of your happy lamp, chances are you aren’t getting as much vitamin D as you would normally receive in the summer. Supplementing vitamin D through capsules can help this.
Please note that Vitamin D can be toxic if taken in too high of a dose. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what dosage is healthy for your body.
- Mix up your surroundings
This tip is pretty simple, but you might be surprised at how much mixing up your surroundings can help dissipate the winter blues. Did you know that some psychologists say rearranging your office surroundings can result in a dopamine boost while also decreasing cortisol levels? Pretty cool, huh? You can read more about that here.
I have found that rearranging my desk or bringing some colorful items to my desk helps improve my mood and outlook on life. If you have windows in your office, also take some time to clean them so the little bit of sunshine you do get can shine through.
If you’ve been feeling a little down at work lately, it’s probably just the Montana winter weather and these tips will help. But, if you decide the cause is actually your job, you already know who can help solve that problem. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our LC Staffing recruiters and discuss career options that will better match your needs.