Tackling SAD: Avoiding Monday Blues in the Workplace
What is SAD?
SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder and it can affect anyone regardless of their age or gender. It can be more commonly referred to as ‘winter blues’ and has similar symptoms to depression except it is brought on at particular times of the year by factors such as weather, daylight & temperature. Weather has a large effect on our brain & body by decreasing serotonin levels and increasing melatonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical nerve produced by cells that impacts every part of our body but most importantly in this case it helps regulate our moods & feelings. Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body and it is responsible for regulating our internal clock and helping us sleep in a routine; which explains why we find it so much more difficult to get out of bed on those cold winter mornings.
Symptoms of SAD
As with depression sometimes it can be difficult to pick up on the symptoms, especially when symptoms can be unique to the individual and differ from person to person; there is no ‘one she fits all’ treatment. One of the symptoms you can look out for is lack of energy or restlessness (again, this can differ depending on the person and how they react). If someone at work is beginning to appear uninterested in meetings, becoming more forgetful or slacking in their work this could be a sign of SAD. On the other hand, if your colleague is becoming unusually hyperactive & cheerful this could be how they react and try to go about their everyday activities whilst dealing with SAD. Don’t forget to consider that your colleagues could just be tired or not had their coffee for the day yet, they could also just be excited for the Christmas holidays but keeping an eye out for these signs will help you and your colleagues to get through the winter months happily; or as happy as can be. Another sign to look out for is comfort eating; this may be difficult around the festive time of year because a lot of colleagues will probably eat more treats in the run up to Christmas anyway but if it appears to be a constant snacking habit and/or you detect any other signs it might be best to check they’re okay.
How to deal with SAD at work
Staying active helps increase hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine & testosterone which leads to a much more positive outlook & this is just in response to physical exercise. It can be difficult to fit exercise in your day when you work during the daytime hours but one of the ways you can get around this is to cycle or walk to work if possible.
The most obvious way to battle the symptoms of SAD is to go outdoors more often and try to see as much daylight as you can. The further in to winter we get the shorter the days become, and it can get quite miserable travelling to and from work in the dark when you don’t get to see any of the day. A productive way you can get to see some of that daytime at work is to take a walk during your lunchtime break; this way you can get exercise too which will increase production of positive hormones.
It can be difficult to stay warm during the winter months but it’s not impossible. Usually the mornings are most difficult because of the cold journey to work. If you travel by car then you might need to de-ice your windscreen and then you still have to wait for the heating to kick in & depending on how long your journeys are some cars are only just starting to heat up when you arrive to work. One of the ways you can try combat this issue is to wake up slightly earlier and put the heating on in the car just 5 minutes before you actually need to leave; this will give the heating chance to warm up & heat the car before you depart. If you’re really struggling to leave your bed in the morning, then it might be easier to purchase some thermal driving gloves to keep you warm. Morning journeys can be even more difficult for those who use public transport but if wrapping up in layers isn’t keeping you warm enough you can purchase ‘hand warmers’ for £1-£5 that will heat up to around 50°C and gradually cool down over the course of about an hour; they’re essentially like having a hot water bottle for your hands. If your workplace is quite cold then it might be worthwhile bringing in a hot water bottle, mentioning to your manager that the heating is too low or wrapping up in thicker layers to keep yourself warm & happy at work.
Believe it or not eating well can have a major impact on your overall mood. It’s important that you try to keep a balanced diet even through the winter months when it’s all too tempting to live off chocolate and carbohydrates. In fact, there are actually a lot of foods that have been proven to improve your mood. For example, foods that are high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Folate and Zinc will all help boost your mood. For example, bananas are high in amino acid tryptophan which can be converted in to serotonin with the help of Vitamin B6; also found in bananas. If you don’t like bananas then don’t stress there are plenty of foods that contain these vital vitamins.
As mentioned earlier, access to natural lighting plays a major role in the prevention of SAD and there are a couple of things you can do to avoid this. Using light replicating lighting can help improve mood. However, increasing natural lighting is the best course of action.
Adding DDS Light Pipes and flat roof skylights are perfect for this as they can increase daylight into otherwise inaccessible indoor areas, such as office atriums and larger workspaces.
As we have previously discussed, natural lighting in the workplace is actually one of the key drivers in employee happiness; ensure you’re exposed to natural daylight everyday.
Hobbies are a brilliant way to help you cope with the symptoms of SAD because it gives you something to concentrate on and look forward to (other than Christmas). It doesn’t matter what hobby you decide to take up but you might want to try choose something that isn’t weather dependant so you have no reason why you can’t go back to it whenever you want.
One of the reasons we begin to feel down during the winter months is because it becomes harder and harder to plan things or go places with people due to the dark nights & cold weather. One way to do this at work is to take a lunchtime break together (if you can) and go on a walk; the exercise will also increase your mood and exercising together will help you keep up with it and get everyone out in the daylight for 30-60 minutes which can make a huge difference! Also, part of socialising is having open conversations with one another; if you or another colleague is feeling down make sure that you mention this to someone and support them too.