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How to Beat the Dark-Days Blues

How to Beat the Dark-Days Blues

If you’re one of the many people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), you probably weren’t celebrating your free “extra” hour when you made the Daylight Savings switch recently. Instead, you were probably wondering how to cope now that we’re in the days of waking up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark.

Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, plenty of us start to feel draggy and lackluster after enough gray days and early nights. So what can you do to combat the gloom?

Here are some ways to beat the dark-days blues:

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Take extra-good care of yourself.

When you don’t feel your physical best, it can be even harder to feel emotionally well. Help your mood by keeping yourself in good health. Get enough sleep at night, make sure to eat healthy, balanced meals, and find a regular exercise plan that works for you. Also keep yourself protected against seasonal illness by getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk to avoid office germs.

Keep your surroundings bright.

Make sure the rooms in your house are properly lit. If there are any dim spots, consider adding another table or floor lamp. At work, if your overall office environment is dark, get a lamp for your desk to make your personal area brighter.

Get outside whenever you can.

Whenever the weather permits, spend some time outside. Take your dogs for a walk, play a game with your kids, or just enjoy sitting in the fresh air for a little while. Even if the day is overcast, outdoor light can still make you feel better—not to mention the fact that just getting out into nature after being stuck indoors can cheer you up, too.

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Try light therapy.

There’s a reason we feel brought down by the cold months, apart from the monotony of gray skies and long evenings. Human beings absorb vitamin D through exposure to UV-B rays found in sunlight—and when we’re not getting as much sunlight every day, it can result in feelings of depression and lack of energy.

Light boxes mimic the light you’d receive from the sun, which can affect the chemicals in your brain that regulate mood. Just sitting a few feet away from a light box for half an hour each day can help improve SAD symptoms. (Check with your health care provider for specific instructions, as they often advise you do light therapy during certain periods of the day.) Light boxes can be a little pricey, but if they can improve your daily mood and energy levels over the long, dark months, it’s worth it.

Take natural supplements.

Melatonin is believed to help treat the symptoms of SAD by regulating your sleep-wake cycle, which can be disrupted when daylight hours get shorter. (Again, you may need to take melatonin at specific points of the day for it to be most effective, so check with your physician.) Vitamin D supplements can also help replenish the nutrients you’re no longer getting from sunlight.

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Exercise.

I know; it may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling blah, but regular physical activity can actually give you more energy by getting you up off the couch and moving. It’s also a great way to work out some negative emotions. Try something fun and peppy like Zumba to lift your mood, something calming like yoga to relieve stress and center your thoughts, or something like kick boxing to release pent-up anger and frustration.

Avoid alcohol.

Not only does it slow you down and make you feel more groggy, but also (as anyone who’s nursed a breakup over a bottle of wine can tell you) alcohol can just enhance your negative feelings and make you feel even worse.

See your doctor if your feelings are too much.

The symptoms of SAD are very similar to the symptoms of depression, so if your mood continues to worsen or you start to have thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, seek professional help immediately. You may need to be put on medication to help regulate your moods and might also benefit from counseling.

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If you’re in doubt whether you should seek help or not? Always opt for “yes.”

Featured photo credit: Cracked land and the lightning via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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