The winter blues can be a real problem for business people who work from home. Here are six mood-boosting strategies you can put to work when colder weather and shorter days begin to get the best of you.
The winter blues are no joke. American Family Physician notes that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes depression in 4 to 6 percent of the population in the winter, while 10 to 20 percent of people endure a milder version of the condition.
People who have to travel to a business location everyday and deal with nasty weather and traffic jams may think working from home will chase the winter blues away.
Unfortunately, though, working from home doesn’t make you immune from seasonal affective disorder and its effects. On the contrary, a slew of articles suggests that freelancers and others who work from home suffer from winter blues just as often as their 9 to 5 counterparts if not more frequently. And they have a lower overall evaluative wellbeing than their counterparts who are employed full time.
How to Beat the Winter Blues when You Work From Home
If you get seriously depressed in the winter (or any time) you should be sure to seek professional help. But if you’re winter blues are the mild kind, these tips will help make your days brighter.
Get Your Body Moving
Not only is exercise essential for controlling weight and maintaining health, but it can also help fight depression. Research shows that working out causes the body to release endorphins, which interact with the brain to reduce perception of pain. The end result is that you feel happier and less depressed.
As someone who is working from home, you can use exercise as a way to minimize the effects of SAD. If you can’t go to a gym, consider watching workout DVDs or YouTube videos. Buying some hand weights, take a daily walk around the neighborhood, or just walking up and down the stairs in your house more often. Two other good ways to stretch your body and relieve stress are Yoga and Tai Chi.
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Take a Break during Daylight Hours
Most of us tend to work during normal business hours, i.e. from 9am to 5pm. However, as a freelancer or someone working from home, you might be able to shift your schedule so you can enjoy the daylight while your peers are stuck in their cubicles.
While you don’t have to become nocturnal during the winter months, consider taking a couple hours off work in the middle of the day – say around 2pm – to get out and enjoy the sun. If you can’t take a couple of hours off, at least take yourself outside somewhere for your lunch break. (Along with the burst in energy, you’ll benefit from the extra vitamin D at this time of day. You can make up the work in the evening, when it’s cold and dark.
Find Out if You’re SAD
Some of us get a little blue during the colder, darker months of winter. Other people experience the full-on depression known as seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms of this serious condition include tiredness, oversleeping, weight gain, and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic.
These days, SAD sufferers don’t have to endure their pain in silence. If you have this condition and it’s severe, as we mentioned above, consult a professional for help. But if your symptoms are mild, consider upping your vitamin D intake with daily supplements. You can also open your curtains, move your desk near the window, and even purchase a special lamp that simulates the effects of the sun. According to research by the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD is caused mainly by lack of sunlight, and you can mitigate that winter deprivation with regular phototherapy.
Get Out of the House When Possible
Being home alone can leave you feeling, well, lonely. And the problem only intensifies during the winter months. Most years (but not the 20-21 winter season) you could boost your spirits by working out of your local library or café. While you may not be able to do that this year, you could still reward yourself with a mocha latte, bring it back home, and join a networking meeting on Zoom or Google Hangouts.
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During the winter months, it’s tempting to spend your days holed up on the couch with your slippers and blanket. However, if you want to stave off seasonal depression, it’s important to see and speak with other people. Winter is a great time to do that networking you neglected during the busy summer months.
Most years there are many local business networking groups you can attend, and you can meet up with a fellow freelancers to work together at your local Starbucks. This year those activities have mostly been moved online. Although attending them doesn’t take you out of the house, at least it lets you communicate with others and hear new ideas. If you don’t know any work-from-homers in your area, consider reaching out to some of the LinkedIn contacts you’ve been meaning to get to know better. You can also do some research about upcoming networking events in your region. With a little effort, you can fight depression while increasing your employment opportunities for the coming years.
Embrace the Season
It’s easy to write off winter as that long and pointless period after the end-of-year holidays and before spring rolls around. However, thinking of the cold-weather months in this manner will likely just increase your feelings of depression. Instead, freelancers and others should try to embrace the benefits of winter.
Schedule time to participate in your favorite winter activities, such as outdoor ice skating, skiing, and sledding with the kids. You can also enjoy indoor winter treats, like hot cocoa, roaring fires, and cuddling on the couch with your sweetie after work. So, the next time you’re feeling blue, strive to celebrate winter instead of disparaging it.