With the arrival of the more virulent delta strain of Covid-19, we can probably expect another season of remote work—and its daunting for all of us, but especially those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, a type of depression that develops in the winter months, affects at least 5 percent of American adults. Given the isolating nature of the pandemic, the effects of this disorder are only expected to be exacerbated this winter. And even those who don’t have SAD will likely find themselves feeling a bit lonelier and less focused than usual this season.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there are ways to help fight off despair, find inspiration, and prioritize your well-being. Below are five WFH tips to help you stay productive and positive during this season of solitude.
1. Experiment with lighting
It's well-documented that the human disposition is profoundly influenced by lighting. In fact, lighting impacts our mood and learning capacity, and there are all kinds of studies about how specific types of lighting trigger certain responses. Ultimately, what you want to do during the winter months is introduce yourself to new lighting situations that will positively affect your mood and productivity.
One option is to increase your sunlight exposure. Not only is sunlight a total mood booster but it’s also an essential ingredient in maintaining your vitamin D levels (thanks to UV rays). So, soak up all that winter sun by positioning your workspace near a window.
Another option is to use sun lamps. It can be hard to capture enough sunshine during the colder months if you live in an area with an overabundance of cloudy, rainy days. A light therapy device is a convenient way to artificially replicate the benefits of sunshine. So, consider furnishing your workspace with a sun lamp.
2. Switch up your sleep schedule
Given daylight savings time and shorter days in general, it’s a wise idea to try to get an earlier start in the morning. Getting as many hours of rest when it’s dark out and as many hours of working time when it’s daylight can help improve seasonal depression and increase your chances of getting an appropriate dose of vitamin D.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is always a key factor in keeping up productivity but is even more important during the winter months. With less daylight hours in the winter, the body produces more melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that causes tiredness and signals to your body that it’s time for bed. The increased production of this hormone means you’re likely to feel increasingly tired during winter, which is why it’s important to focus on improving your sleep schedule this time of year.
3. Change up your work environment
Since last March, most of us have been cooped up in our homes. After all this time, it’s natural to feel uninspired or even dissatisfied with your environment. In practice, remaining in the same space can also be a deterrent to your success and serve as a major contributor to your emotional exhaustion.
Changing your working environment can refer to many different things. You can switch your home office from one room to another, or even one corner of the room to another corner of the room. You could also do a bit of redecorating to imbue a little creativity and color in a space that feels too lifeless and gray.
Useful techniques to get you started on your redecorating venture include: decluttering your space by organizing or storing your files and devices, hanging colorful art that adds a splash of personality to the space, and introducing a bit of greenery into the space with a couple of low-maintenance indoor plants.
4. Use breathing exercises
Mental health should be top of mind during the winter months when SAD is likely to spike. Not only does SAD cause an increase in melatonin but it also results in decreased serotonin production. Between these two hormone changes, feelings of depression and anxiety are at an all-year high.
One way to combat these feelings is by using breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are known to increase energy levels, improve sleep, and promote relaxation. Not only will breathing exercises help you stay positive and improve productivity but they’ll also help you accomplish your daily tasks (and implement the tips provided in this blog!).
5. Stay active
It can be tempting during the winter months to hibernate and decrease your physical activity—and even more so this winter given all the Covid uncertainty. But now it’s perhaps more important than ever to move and exercise—to maintain your health and motivation levels, to decrease your stress, and to improve your focus so you can keep your concentration all day long.
If you find yourself succumbing to the classic afternoon case of lack of motivation and winter blues, try going for something as simple as a midday walk, engaging in 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, or just doing a few stationary stretches. These simple exercises can make a big difference to your health, mood, creativity, and ability to focus—and thus your productivity.
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She is the managing editor for 365 Business Tips as well as runs a personal blog, Mixed Bits Media. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.
Larry English is the president and cofounder of Centric Consulting, a 1,000-person tech and strategy consulting firm that has operated fully remotely since its founding 20 years ago. In June 2020, English published Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams, which offers a step-by-step guide to creating strong virtual cultures.
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