It’s winter. Days are shorter. It’s darker longer. The weather has been incredibly challenging for much of the country, with snow, ice and wind impacting many states. As a result, many people are feeling unmotivated, depressed and just “off.”
Believe it or not, this feeling of low energy is a real thing, called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD can bring us down and even lead into clinical depression. We need to get a certain amount of sunlight (and vitamin D) to feel good – and this time of year, especially when the weather is so awful, it’s harder to get those necessary bursts.
The first thing many of us notice is a shift in our mental energy and attention. A significant energy zapper is feeling overwhelmed and anxious. When our thinking is cluttered with worry thoughts, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. We are distracted by our concerns about money, family, and work that we lose track of ways to take care of ourselves. Nothing makes us feel worse than feeling out of control about things in our life – which is essentially what worry thoughts are. Worry thoughts really do get the best of us and we often worry about the things that are totally out of our control. You’re going to worry (no point in worrying about your worrying) but you can take a step back and prioritize your worries – so don’t sweat the small stuff.
Additionally, if you can organize your external world, your internal world will be much better. External clutter = internal turmoil. Although it’s difficult, there are some things to do that can help with this. Make “to-do” lists that help to organize your day. Also, try to keep the areas you use the most (i.e. Your desk, the front entrance to your home) tidy. If you can keep the world around you in some sort of order, you will feel more in control, which will allow you to feel more energized.
When we feel mentally shot, we feel physically drained as well. There are some things we want to shift in our lives to help us feel better physically, the first of which is sleep. None of us get enough sleep in general for lots of reasons. We may aim for 7-8 hour, and then, when we don’t get it, we try to catch up on the weekends. The problem with trying to play catch-up is that we end up oversleeping on the weekends and start the week feeling lethargic – we disrupt our Circadian rhythm and general routine. What you want to do is get up in the same range of what you would get up during the week. Leave your bedroom shades open just a little – because sometimes seeing the sun when your alarm goes off can help get you out of the bed. Don’t hit snooze, as tempting as it may be.
Secondly, exercise is possibly even more important in the winter. We all know the benefits of exercise: it helps us feel energized as there is a release of endorphins and serotonin when we get moving. Research shows that getting outside when it’s cloudy and gross outside will boost your mood as well. Some exposure to light can help increase the amount of Vitamin D. So, if you can combine the outside with the exercise, it’s a double benefit.
Lastly, in addition to some mental and physical changes that you can make, there are some other behavioral things to change for yourself. ONe thing to consider is if you are stuck in a rut. Maybe it’s time to change the morning routine, or move the furniture around in your office. If you’re bored, you won’t feel good and it’s an incredibly powerful zapper of motivation. If you continue to do the same routine repeatedly at the gym, you’ll hit a plateau and not see any changes. You’ll also feel burnt out from doing the same routine. Think of other patterns in your life in the same way. Shake it up!
Another piece to consider is how your dress. You can choose colors that will boost your mood and build energy. Studies have shown that reds and purples have a direct effect on your mood by boosting adrenaline production. So if you dress brightly – your mood will be brighter too. Little bits of color work too; you don’t have to dress in red head to toe.
Also, dress to make your body happy and comfortable. Stilettos for example, won’t promote you taking that walk in the middle of the day, so bring low-heeled shoes to change into. Taking a walk midday can help give you the energy boost you might need to make it until quitting time.
Don’t forget to stay connected. It’s easy to want to retreat and hibernate, but don’t let the cold weather keep you from social interactions. It’s more likely that you will feel depressed if you are isolated. Try to stay busy in face to face interactions, not those on the internet that will allow you to stay in your house. Direct connection boosts mood and energy.
What are you doing to beat the winter blahs and fight the energy zappers in your life?
Here’s the clip to the segment from The Early Show: