Beating the Winter Blues
25 September 2019

Employee wellness – welfare – good health

This year I have started suffering the winter blues very early.

They’re not really winter blues so much as Westminster blues. Brexit and parliamentary activities calculated to delay any proper decision, have once again cast uncertainty over the future (seriously damaging to the economy). It made me feel very gloomy. Then I heard Labour’s plans for government - almost certainly a recipe for a recession (tax those who invest in and create wealth in the economy + cut productivity + add costs to production). As for the Supreme Court’s decision – it was a surprising and disappointing judicial intervention into parliamentary process.

I have a very severe case of Westminster PAD (sic) (parliamentary anti-democratic disorder). One can only hope that some sort of economic and political sanity will eventually prevail. It makes me long fondly for the mere inconvenience of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The winter blues, aka SAD, is thought to be caused by lack of natural light, disruption to the body clock and/or increased levels of melatonin. Whatever the cause, the winter blues affect about two million annually in the UK. It’s a form of depression characterised by fluctuations in appetite, low mood, and sleeping heavily. This may affect you and or team members, so here are some tips to help reduce the effects

  • Move! Research has shown that even a short (15-minute) walk during the day will increase crucial neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, energising the brain and regulating circadian rhythms. Exercise earlier in the day, absorbing natural daylight within two hours of waking up, is even more beneficial.
  • Think right. Try to see the positives in winter. Much of nature hibernates during the winter months and although we can’t take to our duvets in quite the same way, we slow down some aspects of our lives, enjoy being at home, and spend time inside with friends and family. Take this time to plan some treats later in the year. Planning nice things to look forward to also improves mood.
  • Put down that comforting hot buttered toast and marmalade! They might be delish but will make you feel sluggish. Winter’s the time for complex carbohydrates. Eat power porridge (porridge, cinnamon, red berries or banana, a dollop of natural yogurt and honey) in the morning and bring out the slow cooker to make nourishing and delicious soups and casseroles using broccoli, spinach, courgettes and lentils. These complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, meaning they don’t cause the sudden spikes in blood sugar that can play havoc with your mood.
  • Take supplements. Vitamin D plays a role in regulating mood, maintaining optimum blood sugar levels and boosting our immune systems, but one of the main natural sources of vitamin D is sunlight. This means that a large proportion of the UK population are deficient in vitamin D during the winter months. One study found that when adults with the winter blues were given 400-800 international units of vitamin D3 a day, their mood improved substantially. Omega-3 supplements may also be beneficial. Omega-3s are thought to exert an antidepressant effect by improving the functioning of cells in the brain and blood.
  • Meditate. Studies have suggested that by relaxing the body and mind through stimulating the release of the hormone melatonin, meditation can lead to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with happiness, and decreased activity in brain regions linked to stress.
  • Let there be light! Light therapy between 50% and 80% of people who get the winter blues can get either partial or complete relief from bright light therapy, applied by sitting near a light box for half an hour a day through autumn and winter.
  • My own personal and completely unscientific tip is to wear bright colours in soft and comfortable fabrics. It’s hard to feel depressed in a pillar box red or fuchsia pink outfit.

Unfortunately, I can’t solve the Brexit shambles, but I can certainly solve work-related problems. If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch! 

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2023 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.