Sustaining productivity and combating winter gloom


The shortening of daylight hours and lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter months can cause us to feel down and less able to cope. Not only do our immune systems take a hit between September and April meaning we are more vulnerable to infections and illness, there is also a rise in depression and mental health related problems1.

Winter blues exercising

This shift in seasons can be known as the “winter gloom”. There has also been links between the sudden onset of darker nights and a drop in employee productivity levels2.

Mark Pinches, Head of Coaching at Westfield Health, discusses ways employees can sustain productivity during the winter months.

1. Get enough rest
Over the festive period you’ve likely been socialising more and sleeping less. By burning the candle at both ends, you’re bound to be tired and less productive upon returning to work. Getting a good night’s sleep is the only way you can properly recharge your batteries, having a combination of quantity and quality. Most of us will need somewhere between 6-9 hours of sleep to feel good during the day. Put down all electronic devices 30 minutes before going to bed or read a book to help you relax and unwind. 

2. Get active
Lack of sunlight during the winter months increases melatonin levels in the brain which can make you feel lethargic and therefore less motivated when it comes to exercising.  By keeping up with physical activity, you will naturally boost your mood as your brain releases endorphins which are ‘feel good hormones’. A good way to stick to this is to commit to exercising at least a couple of nights a week with a friend or colleague as you’ll be less likely to cancel last minute. Whilst it might be too cold to run outside, a gym or home workout can be a great alternative and also means you don’t have to battle the winter weather.

3. Don’t take on too much
If productivity levels are low during these winter months, don’t feel bad about speaking up and asking for support. Taking on too much at work will make you feel stressed and run down so it is better to have a smaller work load and complete tasks efficiently than to over-stretch yourself. To help order your thoughts and stay productive, break down larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritise their importance.

4. Take a break
Working long days once the clocks have gone back means there’s not much time left during the evening for ‘you’ time. Take a break during this period to recharge and replenish energy levels. Be careful not to use all your annual leave in the summer, save a few days to take during the winter to allow yourself to practice some self-care, allowing yourself to just relax and rejuvenate.

5. Eat well
A good diet is key to sustaining a strong immune system during the autumn and winter months. Craving carbohydrates and junk food is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so it is important to avoid reaching for unhealthy foods.

Incorporate plenty of vitamins and minerals into your diet through eating a range of colourful fruit and vegetables to boost your immune system and help fight off illness. Drinking water to stay hydrated will also help your brain operate effectively meaning you can concentrate and be more productive whilst at work.

The author is Mark Pinches, Head of Coaching at Westfield Health.

This article was provided by Westfield Health. 

References

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder

2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/winter-blues-sad/


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