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Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as the “winter blues” (or “winter blahs”) affects millions of people every year. If you’ve ever felt sluggish and depressed during the colder, darker months, you may have experienced this type of short-term depression yourself. Although this is characterized as a disorder, it may just be our minds and bodies encouraging us to take things a bit slower and hibernate a bit more until the warmer days of spring return.

As few of us can afford to take a few months off work so we can crawl under blankets and eat pie, we can take a few steps to alleviate these cold weather blues so they don’t interfere with our daily lives quite as much.

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Symptoms of the winter blues can include the following:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • General lethargy and loss of energy
  • The feeling of having heavy limbs that are troublesome to move around
  • Social withdrawal; feeling like you just want to be left alone
  • Fatigue and oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in socializing or other activities
  • Food cravings, especially for carbohydrates and fatty foods
  • Weight gain (likely from a combination of appetite changes and lack of exercise)
  • Difficulty concentrating

Does any of this sound familiar? Sure, we can all likely relate to a couple of those issues at some point in the winter, but if you find yourself checking off most of those symptom points, you might wish to take some steps to alleviate them. SAD usually clears up on its own as soon as the weather warms up again and we spend a bit more time in the sunshine, but the following tips and tricks can help to alleviate these symptoms a great deal.

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Light Therapy

Our energy levels are controlled by the hormones melatonin and serotonin. When we wake to daylight, serotonin kicks in to bring us focus and clarity. Melatonin is produced at night to help us wind down for restful sleep, but over the dark winter months (when we don’t get much exposure to sunlight), our bodies produce more melatonin than usual. This can make us sleepy, lethargic, and depressed, which can be difficult for those of us tending to small children or having to put together spectacular presentations at work. 

If you get yourself a small, medically-approved light box and plop it on your desk, you’ll receive similar effects to basking in summer sunshine while you work. That direct light beaming into your retinas can lift your spirits immensely and help to boost your energy levels. Aim for somewhere between 20 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on how miserable you feel. On days when you’re not working, just perch the light box on the table while you eat, read, or do homework.

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Exercise

Working out won’t just help you fight off winter weight gain‒it’ll lift your mood as well. Those natural endorphins that are released during a good workout will keep you smiling for a while, and the restful sleep you’ll get after pushing yourself a little can help too. If you manage to exercise outside, whether that’s cross-country skiing or even just taking a lot of walks outdoors, you’ll also get some great exposure to sunshine and fresh air.

Cut Back on Caffeine, Sugar, and Alcohol

Although a hot cup of coffee, chocolatey brownie, or glass of wine will make us smile for a little while, the inevitable crash will make us feel even worse later. Cut back on coffee and black tea, and stay hydrated with fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water instead. If you’re craving sugar, try chewing on some dried figs, or make yourself some power balls with dates, honey (or agave), and chopped nuts.

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Vitamins and Supplements

Some people find that supplements such as Vitamin D and Vitamin C help them to battle the winter blues, while others turn to St. John’s Wort tincture to raise their spirits. Consult your healthcare provided before taking any supplements, just in case there are contraindications with medications you’re already on, or side-effects that may interfere with any medical issues you may have.

If you find that you’re feeling really depressed, are turning to alcohol and/or drugs to lift your spirits, or if you’ve had any thoughts about suicide, please contact your doctor immediately. While the aforementioned supplements and such can work wonders to help mild SAD, more intense symptoms may require stronger measures.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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