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Helping to resolve conflicts, improve performance, and develop teams in the workplace. Bringing insight, knowledge, and experience to individuals and organizations for over 30 years. 

Snowed Under in January? 

Snowed Under in January? 

Comfort food, warm blankets and TV binging are winter pleasures. Overeating, fatigue and malaise are not. Winter slows life down, but what happens to us during cold weather and grey days? Depression clearly has a negative effect in our personal and work lives.  Relationships suffer when we need the support of others to maintain emotional balance and in turn support theirs. Work suffers when our lethargy detracts from the competent performance we are capable of.

Why do we hit emotional low points?  One reason is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a category of depression that usually occurs in the fall and winter. According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as five percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD. Not simply a “lighter” version of major depression, SAD is a specific kind of depression with a seasonal component and just as serious.

Symptoms include depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed, and even thoughts of death or suicide. 

If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, it’s time to seek professional advice. Getting professional help for SAD makes good sense because it can be effectively treated with cognitive behavior therapy, medication, and/or light therapy.

However whether it’s SAD or simply the January blues, there are ways to combat the effects by making some changes in your lifestyle.  As a rule, lifestyles automatically adjust to seasonal conditions. When it’s cold outdoors, we tend to stay inside. We get less exercise. We have fewer social contacts. Yet, research proves that by changing up our winter habits, we can improve our mood and minimize SAD symptoms. 

Here are some suggestions:

Sunlight – Natural lighting has a very calming and peaceful effect on our moods and emotions.  The lack of light and even poor artificial light can trigger depression.  In a slump, go outside (or someplace with bright lights) for 15 minutes to brighten your mood.  Want to optimize your concentration?  Dim your lights, and then make them brighter when you need to focus.  Use full spectrum lights indoors and/or choose motivating colors (reflected light) when decorating to brighten your mood.      

Movement – Your mind and body are intimately connected. The way you move can affect the way you think and feel. Acting happy – such as throwing your fists into the air or jumping up and down – makes you feel happier.  The same for walking like you are happy and smiling. Try dancing (with no one watching of course) for a few minutes to a favorite song. Any positive movement from simple posture changes to exercise programs will help. Make it a point to notice when you don’t move so you can make it a point to move. 

Change Environments – Isolation booths are used to prevent people from seeing or hearing certain events. Any environment you might be in filters what you can hear and see. You will adapt to that environment, much like falling asleep in a comfortable chair. Change where you are to stimulate your brain. Sitting at your desk all day? Get up and move to a conference room for a change of scenery. 

People – Isolation is often an unwitting adjunct to feeling depressed. You’re simply not in the mood to socialize. Make it a point to interact with others even if it means being in the company of strangers where you are limited to polite interaction. From a simple smile and interaction with a cashier to discussion with someone you know well, the benefits will accrue.  It’s well known that interacting with others gets you out-of-your head and improves how you feel.

Sleep – Getting enough sleep is necessary to refresh your brain. Fatigue and burnout are pre-requisites for depression.  Sleeping well, however, is elusive for many people. Sleep is a complex matter and sometimes requires the help of a sleep expert to determine how you might get better sleep.  Make it a priority to get enough sleep and to recognize when the lack of sleep compounds feelings of depression.  Search for helpful sleep techniques, but if you feel as if none of these works, get professional guidance.

Relaxation – A steady diet of tension and anxiety will quickly diminish your mood and may also contribute to ill health. We need to offset stresses by focusing on the positive.  Surely there are good things in all of our lives. In a simple form of meditation, think of all your stressors as pages in a large illustrated book.  Then hold the closed book by the top and bottom in front of your face.  You can’t see anything in front of you but the book!  Now put the book on your lap so you can see everything in front of you. The stresses contained in that book, closed on your lap, are no longer blocking your view. You’ve cleared the way to focus on the positive. Explore these relaxation apps for Android and Iphone. 

While there are no perfect or ever lasting solutions, keep in mind that everything is done twice, once in your thinking and then by your actions.  If you act on your thoughts, you are testing and modifying them in a realistic context.  If you don’t act, you are never going to test or modify your thinking.  And that is a recipe for letting negative, depressing thoughts dominate your life. 




Helping to resolve conflicts, improve performance, and develop teams in the workplace. Bringing insight, knowledge, and experience to individuals and organizations for over 30 years.