Staying Focused & Overcoming the SADness of the Winter Season
Is there any more paradoxical time of year than Winter Solstice? At its heart, Winter Solstice brings the shortest day of the year mixed with the heightened anticipation of the holidays. It is a time of year where you have endless feel-good Hallmark movies and Christmas songs on every radio station, yet the cold, cloudy-quickly-turned-to-dark days makes average Midwest citizens prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
I am a born-and-raised Wisconsin girl, so I experience first-hand those contradictory effects of feeling excited for Christmas and New Year’s but becoming susceptible to those winter blues. When it’s pitch black outside as early as 4:30pm, there is nothing I want to do more than go home to put on comfortable pajamas and curl up on my couch to watch the next episode of my favorite shows on Netflix while munching on popcorn mixed with M&Ms. The cycle continues into the following morning when my alarm goes off and I’m tempted to hit the snooze button one-too-many times so I can enjoy the warmth radiating from my bed covers onto my body.
Long story short, it is hard for me, and thousands of fellow Midwesterners, to find the motivation to work and have a well-rounded lifestyle that would normally be easier during the other seasons. So what are some ways to remain focused at work and take care of ourselves while performing juggling act of emotions during Winter Solstice? Personally, I would opt for ending Daylight Savings as I find the concept archaic and pointless. Realistically, there are other ways that can help you conquer those short days and holiday craziness.
First, let’s be honest: Who wouldn’t want, or need, to have a couple days off work during this time of year? Unless you are ineligible for paid-time-off or work at a retail store, then you should enjoy the benefit of time off after many weeks of hard work. Most companies these days strive to promote a healthy work-life balance; some even automatically give you the days between Christmas and New Year’s off. In addition, most companies have a “use it or lose it” policy where your PTO accrued expires in December and starts anew in January. Let’s face it, if the motivation to work is not there, take advantage of your PTO during the holidays.
If you do need to work the 9 to 5 job, the good news is it is still possible to maintain your focus and sanity during this time of year. When it comes to the shorter days, try to take advantage of getting as much daylight as possible. This may mean stepping outside for a few minutes to breathe in that cold air which also helpful for when you feel especially sluggish as it’s good pick-me-up. If you’re not up for the cold air, try being near a window where a room is naturally brighter. Experiencing some daylight while at the office will remind you that the sun does come out and we are not in the North Pole that experiences constant darkness for weeks!
Another option would be to see if your employer is flexible with letting you work remotely, especially during instances of extreme weather when driving is unsafe. Having the chance to work at home or a nearby coffee shop, even for a couple hours, can help you stay motivated to accomplish your tasks without the hassle of commuting and feeling stuck at your desk. You can choose a spot by a big open window and sip on your favorite hot drink while you plug away to earn that well deserved Christmas bonus.
On top of staying motivated to work, it is equally important that you maintain motivation to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. We all know it can be difficult to stay motivated during the winter, especially during the busy holiday season. I’m not going to bore you with a laundry list of facts and tips for staying physically healthy—you can find that anywhere on the Internet. Instead, I’m simply going to share how I plan to stay motivated in being healthy during December.
My motivation is an upcoming trip to Orlando in early January 2018 where I know I will be in lots of pictures and experience warmer weather. I do not want to look like I gained fifteen pounds because I ate one too many cookies in December. For you, try to think of something in the near future where you are going to want to look your best. Or maybe you already know your New Year’s resolution is to work out more—why not start developing the habit of working out before the New Year crowd? Is there a sweater you’re dying to have but the only size left is too small? Only you will know your true motivation to staying healthy, don’t let the excuses of cold weather, shorter days and a plethora of food take control.
The mental side of motivation can be a bit more of a challenge. Again, with Seasonal Affective Disorder being common and having less daylight in which to obtain Vitamin D, it can be difficult to maintain a positive mindset. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that some of the biggest holidays of the year occur during this time of year.
Essentially, our mental health is the base of our overall motivation. For example, if we maintain our mental health, it is much easier to maintain our physical health. If one is depressed, one is not usually active or eating healthy. They all go hand in hand. Studies have proven that if we take care of ourselves in other aspects that will reciprocate back to our mind to begin a perpetual cycle of motivation from mind to body to soul. As I think about my upcoming Orlando trip, I schedule time for myself to work out at 5:30pm and once I’m finished I realize I feel good enough for my body to naturally crave healthier food which allows me to sleep better at night only to wake up the next day more refreshed (and maybe a little bit sore from the workout). I’m ready to seize the day at work.I’ll admit I initially need to overcome that mental hurdle of workout versus Netflix but it all goes back to my motivation for Orlando. It’s reminding yourself what it takes to stay motivated to overcome those initial obstacles that tempt you away but once you overcome them, there is no greater feeling of power and control than when you find the strength to endure those challenges, even during the darkest days of the year.