Shorter days, a lack of sunlight, and freezing temperatures can easily kill off any and all productivity and passion, and getting through work during the gloomiest time of the year can feel like an insurmountable task. This is especially true for those struggling with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Typically SAD starts in the fall and continues throughout the winter before resolving on its own in the spring. However, that is a long time to be struggling at work when you’re trying to pay your bills and keep a roof over your head.
So if you’ve been feeling a bit “blah” lately and lacking all work-related motivation, you’ve come to the right place. Thankfully, with the right tips and tricks, you can survive work during the gloomiest time of the year. Keep on reading to learn how.
1. Take short breaks away from your desk
Due to the lack of sun exposure and vitamin D and disruption to our internal body clocks, we all feel a bit more tired and sluggish during the winter. Unsurprisingly, this often correlates to less physical activity. This lack of movement, though, can only add to your lethargy and just make you feel a bit more “blah.” To counter this inactivity and refresh your mind, take short breaks away from your desk periodically throughout the day. Doing things like getting up and going for a quick walk, splashing cold water on your face, or finding a quiet space to do mindful meditation or deep breathing for a few minutes can be beneficial. Eating lunch away from your desk can also be helpful too.
Taking short breaks away from your desk will help break things up, and the change of scenery can help your mind refocus and reset. This short burst of movement is also likely to reinvigorate you a little bit, which will give you a small amount of much-needed energy to continue making boss-chick moves. Plus, extra movement can help release endorphins, which can act as a natural antidepressant and relieve some stress and anxiety.
2. Try conscious connected breathing
Breathwork is one of the best mindfulness tools because it can be done anywhere—like at your desk or corner in your office. There are many different forms of breathwork out there, but breathwork practitioner, spiritual mentor, and CEO Alyse Bacine, swears by a technique called conscious connected breathing. “It’s the perfect way to shift your energy out of stagnation and depression related to SAD,” Bacine told me.
With this technique, you lay down for 15-20 minutes in a quiet space and breathe in and out through your mouth in a circular pattern with no space between the inhale and exhale. “Set the intention that you’re going to shift your energy and journal about how you’re feeling or what you’re grateful for before or after,” Bacine said. “This will shift your energy into gratitude which is the highest frequency in the universe.”
3. Set Boundaries
It can be difficult to separate yourself from work, especially if you’re self-employed or work from home. Think about it: How often do you “log off” for the night only to check your email the second you hear a notification, lest you miss something from work? It’s natural to want to perform well at your job and keep your boss happy, but never turning off “work mode” can be draining. The truth is, everyone needs time to rest and recharge; without it, you’re more likely to get burnt out and your work performance will suffer.
When it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for yourself is set boundaries. Maybe this means not responding to emails after a certain time or avoiding work-related discussions after hours. Whatever the case may be, setting boundaries will give you the opportunity to rest and renew, and you’ll go into the following work day sharper and on your game.
4. Dress for Success
There’s some truth to the old saying “dress for success.” During the winter, there’s a real temptation to bundle up in cozy, comfy clothing, and this is especially true if you spend the most of your time working from home. However, wearing ratty, old clothing around the clock is not going to make you feel good about yourself, which is why during working hours, make it a point to dress for success.
Dressing for success doesn’t mean throwing on an expensive pantsuit (unless you want to, then by all means). Rather, it means wearing clothing that makes you feel good, like a chic loungewear set or cute top. Likewise, if dabbing on a bit of blush or applying a drop of mascara will help you feel better and more confident, then you should absolutely put some on for work. Taking the time to put on and wear things that make you feel your best will give you an energy boost and the confidence to kill it at work.
5. Keep a mindfulness journal
Keeping a mindfulness journal can help you recenter and ground yourself, relieve feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, and remind you of how far you’ve come. It’s also a great way to cultivate self-awareness, increase gratitude, and uncover detrimental behavior and thought patterns. Regularly using a mindfulness journal will make you feel better equipped to handle the season because you’ll be more in touch with yourself and your emotions and help you get out of your own head and remove yourself from the cycle of overthinking.
6. Upgrade Your Desk
Having a desk you love will naturally make you feel more motivated and inspired, and if your setup currently leaves a lot to be desired, it might be time for an upgrade. Your upgrade doesn’t have to be anything big—it can be purchasing a new keyboard, desk lamp, plant, or simply reorganizing what you already do have. Having work tools you love is also going to make you more excited to work, and in turn, you’ll be more productive.
7. Be 5% kinder
I recently listened to an episode of Jay Shetty’s podcast that featured Khloé Kardashian. During the episode, Kardashian mentioned that being just 5% kinder can make the biggest difference in the world. This stuck with me because of its sheer simplicity and truth—it costs $0 to be kind, but for some reason, kindness is often hard to come by.
Make a conscious effort to be 5% kinder to yourself and everyone else moving forward. Hold the door open for someone else, be gentle and compassionate with yourself and rest on days you’re struggling, patiently listen to a co-worker vent instead of rolling your eyes behind their back, or take your family member’s phone call instead of letting it go to voicemail. Little acts of kindness will make you feel good and radiate light and positivity out into the world during a time filled with so much gloom and doom. In turn, you’ll feel lighter, clearheaded, and more excited for work.
In addition, be mindful of using social media because it can easily become a toxic place. Tristan Thibodeau is a brand strategist and CEO who encourages social media users to engage with forethought. “A lack of emotional intelligence can turn social media into an ugly place very quickly,” she divulged to me. “Part of you wants to have compassion for these people because they must be carrying so much negativity. But at the same time, it’s frustrating to watch them take zero responsibility for their emotions as they project their unhappiness onto innocent strangers online.” If you find that you’re logging off social media feeling worse than when you logged on because of toxicity or falling into the comparison trap, consider taking a break from it for a little bit. No amount of likes or comments is worth sacrificing your mental health.
8. Take Care of Your Body
This one probably seems like a no-brainer, but we so often put self-care on the back burner. Make it a point to eat foods that make you feel good and are good for you, get plenty of rest, and drink enough water. Take the time to check in with your body and see how you’re feeling. If there’s an area where you feel you’re lacking, figure out what you can do to nourish it. Taking care of yourself outside of the workplace will translate to taking care of business inside of it.
That said, if you feel like you’re really struggling, it is never a bad idea to talk to your doctor. As a professional, they’ll be able to further guide you in the right direction and provide you with the necessary tools to overcome. Millions of Americans suffer from SAD every year, so try to remember that you’re not alone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. In truth, we all feel a bit gloomy during this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone. Don’t ever forget that you are a divine and deserving human being, and you have absolutely every right to be successful and happy.