At this time of year, we can all find ourselves a little bogged down in the winter blues. Waking up and travelling in the dark, niggly seasonal illnesses and the fact that Spring still feels very far away can make dragging ourselves out of bed to get to work feel like the last thing we want to do. With work-related stress, tiredness and even burnout a problem in our professional lives even at the best of times, issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and the winter blues can add that bit of extra strain.
The Health and Safety Executive reports that 40% of work-related illnesses were down to unsustainable levels of stress, and with so many of us feeling low when it’s cold and dark, it can be even harder to deal with work stress. But if we can’t run off to the Bahamas every winter for an extended holiday, what can we do to stop the winter blues from overwhelming us at work?
Look into Corporate Wellbeing.
Corporate wellbeing is no substitute for fair breaks, reasonable working hours and competent management, but when we are feeling stressed at work corporate wellbeing techniques can go a long way in making us feel better. The foremost of these is meditation, which can be easily practised in the workplace. We can use meditation to handle anxiety, up our productivity and reduce stress. Just eight weeks of regular meditation has been shown in brain scans to physically change the makeup of our mind and make us less prone to feeling stressed out, which can make the affect winter has on our mood less profound.
Other ways we can bring wellbeing into our working life during winter is making sure we get away from our work desk or station to get as much natural light as possible. Going on a short walk gives us the distance we need when work is threatening to overwhelm us, while also letting us see some daylight when it’s in short supply. This is particularly important if our winter commute to and from work takes place in the dark.
Push Yourself to Say No.
If we’ve found ourselves feeling constantly exhausted and overwhelmed at work during the winter, the likelihood is that we’ve taken on too much. It can be difficult to express ourselves when talking to those in positions of authority, but if our superior wants us to complete a task and experience tells us it will put too much on our plate, we can make sure that we communicate this.
If they insist, then the responsibility is on them to justify why the task isn’t complete satisfactorily, as they were forewarned and made their own decision. It’s important to stand firm, and to not take responsibility for tasks we don’t have the time or resources to complete.
This extends to our personal life. Lots of us can benefit from extra rest during the winter, so if we know that we’ve got a particularly demanding day at work lined up, we can make sure to turn down any social engagements that could add extra pressure, and let ourselves off any chores or life admin that day. We should also take extra care not to miss sleep when it’s dark and cold, so staying up regularly to get work finished is a bad idea – we should leave it to the morning.
Re-Prioritise and Switch Off.
If we are conscientious and prone to perfectionism, we can make our working life a bigger priority than it needs to be. It can be difficult if it’s not in our nature, but when we are struggling, occasionally shrugging our shoulders and thinking “never mind” when something doesn’t go to plan can do wonders for our state of mind.
When we are tired, suffering with a cold or just generally fed up, prioritising our most important tasks and letting the small things go is a pretty sensible strategy. We can’t always been at 100% productivity, and throughout our history those in seasonal climates have slowed down and rested during the winter – even our stone-age ancestors probably hid a cave with supplies created during warmer months when winter rolled around.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure that we do truly switch off. Getting home and reading our work emails may not feel like a bad thing, but it keeps work on our mind even if we aren’t stressing about it at that moment.
No job is worth our health, no matter how far we’re climbing up the career ladder or how much we need the money. Furthermore, stress negatively affects our work performance and can even lead to burnout, which makes it difficult to work at all. Putting ourselves first when we are suffering with the winter blues will not only improve our wellbeing, it could make us happier and more productive in our career as well.