4 Tips for Staying Productive When Winter Blues is Coming For You
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I’m pretty accustomed to a low-hanging cloud and a misty sky. I know that, come late September and through to mid-March, darkness is going to greet me for my morning commute and meet me in the parking lot after work, every day. During this time of year when it looks like midnight at 4pm, lots of us need a little extra motivation to keep moving and shaking like we did during sunnier times. Otherwise, we risk a sharp decline in our productivity, which is likely not a risk we can afford. I’ll be honest, I don’t have this mastered yet myself. But there are a few tactics I count on to help me through the winter blues.
1) PRACTICE CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION
I like to use the phrase conscious consumption rather than healthy or clean eating. To me, conscious consumption means being thoughtful about how you nourish yourself every day, which manifests not only through the food you eat, but also through the content you consume, the music you listen to, and even the conversations in which you participate.
It’s an important time of year to take control over what sorts of things, both material and ideological, you allow into your body and space. It’s far too easy to start depending on various substances, from caffeine to comfort food, to help you navigate the changes in your mood. Conscious consumption helps to combat that. Not only does eating a more nutritious diet support your energy levels and ability to focus, but taking a holistic approach to your wellness is a great weapon against the hopelessness, lethargy, or lack of control we often feel as a result of darker days.
2) ALLOT TIME FOR REAL REST
Sometimes we punish ourselves or experience increased anxiety over the fact that we’re struggling to stay motivated. Rather than setting unrealistic expectations about our performance and attitude during this time of year, try blocking out calendar days specifically for resting. And I mean really resting; don’t make plans with friends, don’t work from home or run errands. Allot time to binge-watch a show or stare at the ceiling, even. I know from experience that trying to push myself beyond reasonable limits ultimately causes me to break down, shut down, or both. Be preventative and #ChillOnPurpose.
3) MAKE MORE TO-DO LISTS
This might seem counterintuitive. Why would you make more to-do lists when you barely feel like doing anything as it is? I’ll explain. During the spring and summer, I tackle household chores and errands with ease. I even enjoy them when the sun is shining through the patio door on a Sunday and I can get up bright and early, turn on Pandora, and get the whole house smelling like a scented candle. All that comes to a screeching halt in the winter. It could just be me, but I don’t like cleaning and folding laundry and stuff at night. I know myself well enough to know that, if I don’t have a task list when I get home in the evening, I’m going to sprawl out on the couch and think nothing of it. So instead, I’ve started making SHORT task lists 4 days out of the week to help organize my tasks and reduce the overwhelm around chores. And it actually works! Telling myself that I can lay down as soon as I fold clothes, wash a load of dishes and prep my lunch and dinner for tomorrow keeps small tasks from piling up for the weekend. And that means my weekends stay free for #2: REST!
4) CONSULT WITH A PROFESSIONAL
Many people legitimately suffer from conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s easy to write off symptoms as something that will pass with time. But if you tend to isolate yourself during this season and your experience is posing a serious threat to your responsibilities or self-care, it might really do you some good to call up your therapist and get an appointment on the couch. It’s ok if you can’t quite articulate “what’s wrong” with you. What’s important is that you recruit help when you need it to get through each day until that fresh, organic source of vitamin D returns to the sky.
The common thread for all the tactics that help me navigate the winter blues is being more deliberate than usual about taking care of myself and adapting my work style to accommodate my mood changes. It requires a thoughtful balance between being patient with myself and staying accountable. But mostly, it means taking stock of all the small things that typically put me at ease - such as having a clean environment, cooking for myself, and listening to a softer genre of music - and putting extra effort into incorporating those habits into my daily routine. You totally have what it takes to push through. It’s just a matter of being disciplined about your wellness.
What helps you stay productive in the winter? Drop a comment below and let’s help each other out!