Psychologists’ advice on dealing with seasonal fatigue.

David Silvestro
Unsplash: Matthew Henry

Well… that summer went by fast.

We just got our first big snowfall of the year where I live. And already I’m missing the smell of freshly cut grass, warm sunshine, and everything that comes with it.

The days are growing shorter and darker as we approach the depths of winter. If you’re like me, you start feeling a little more gloomy and lethargic. The ‘winter blues’ are quite common and you may feel a slight shift in your mood.

I spend most of the day working inside on my laptop and by the time I leave the office, daylight is long gone. The lack of daylight and cold weather makes it harder for me to get out and enjoy my regular exercise — hiking in the trails, playing tennis, and getting out to embarrass myself on a golf course.

I think a lot of creatives and entrepreneurs default to hibernation in the winter months. You get dialed in on your laptop, work longer days, and take fewer breaks than you should. This just multiplies fatigue and sluggishness.

So last year I went on a mission to understand this gloomy feeling and find ways that I can actually thrive in the winter. Some things worked and others didn’t, but this year I look forward to doing some more experimenting. I mean, I do have a lot of winters ahead of me.

While you won’t be able to control mother nature, there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself feeling mid-summer form. Unraveling the phenomenon is the first step.

The simple explanation behind this gloomy feeling is that our circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack because of a decreased exposure to daylight, which in turn impacts the levels of hormones our brains release – like serotonin and melatonin.

Our brains naturally release melatonin when the sun goes down to prepare us for a good nights rest, and serotonin when the sun comes up to get us ready for the day. But because these visual cues are much more subtle in the winter months, our brains have a hard time regulating the hormones.

Experts suggest there are number of things we can do to keep spirits high throughout the winter months, and making the effort to actually do them can improve your energy levels.

In my quest to become a winter warrior, I found a few very simple actions that had me feeling alive and motivated. Here’s what I tried plus some:

Take up a winter activity and get moving.

As much as I hated the cold, I hated the thought of sitting around for five months a little more.

Last year I committed myself to taking up a winter activity to get outside and keep active. I love to hike in the summer, but never even considered hiking in the colder months. This was something that I worked on doing weekly last winter, and it was just as enjoyable as my regular hikes.

By taking up a winter activity, you embrace the cold and what the season has to offer. Whether it’s snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even yoga or a spin-class, having a physical activity to look forward to can make the season much more bearable.

Modify your home and working space.

I admittedly underestimated the ROI of this simple task. I spend a good chunk of my days working inside and behind my computer, so creating a better environment to work in was a huge energy booster.

Knowing that seasonal fatigue is commonly caused by the lack of daylight exposure, my first move was to open the blinds of my home office to allow as much natural sunlight in as possible. Instantly things were looking more alive.

I then decorated my desk area with a few small house plants to add some greenery and energy to the room. I also found this to be helpful for my productivity. In fact, studies show that concentration and attentiveness improve when studying/working with plants on your desk.

Just these two things alone made a massive difference in my energy and the way I felt when I was grinding at my desk.

This year I plan to get a light therapy lamp to keep near my desk. They’re pretty affordable and I’ve read good reviews, so worth a try.

Eat tropical fruits.

Last winter I tried to eat an orange every single day. And it weirdly became a sacred part of my morning ritual that fired me up. It’s good to get some vitamins in that you might be lacking in the winter months and you generally can’t go wrong with any tropical fruit.

I’m not a nutritionist, so here’s a great list of fruits that you should mix into your diet this winter.

As the saying goes, an orange a day keeps the blues away.

Go on a getaway.

Nothing can be more refreshing than a vacation in the sun or even a weekend excursion.

It’s easy to get in ruts with your work throughout the winter — a weekend getaway can be all you need to shake off the dust and get some energy flowing. This has always helped me when I’ve been at a roadblock with my business or creative projects.

If you can afford to do this for a weekend, it might be all you need to spark some energy to get you through the season.



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