With shorter days and cold, gloomy weather, the winter months can often have a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, both inside and outside of the workplace.
In the winter, we can be going to work in the dark and ending our working day in the dark, reducing our exposure to sunlight and its mood-enhancing benefits during the shorter days. Feelings of negativity can be attributed to winter blues, or it could be seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD, and can affect everyone.
It’s thought the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.
5 tips to help with your mental health during the winter months:
Tip 1: Keep to a daily routine
With shorter, colder days, it can feel harder to keep our normal activities going. We usually feel better if we’re up and dressed, eating at regular mealtimes, moving our body and going to bed at the same time.
For those who struggle to get up and out of bed on dark mornings, there is evidence to show that a sunrise alarm clock which gradually increases in brightness is beneficial for some people.
Tip 2: Increase exposure to natural light
During the winter months, our exposure to natural light is limited. This affects the levels of some hormones in our bodies which are vital for our mental health. Getting outside for some fresh air and a walk can help with this, even if the weather’s a bit nippy. Evidence shows that 20 minutes around midday even when overcast will be beneficial for maintaining your body’s circadian rhythm.
If you’re not able to get out, then try to make your home as light and airy as possible and sit near a window. You can also investigate getting a light therapy lamp. Light therapy is useful for many who experience debilitating symptoms. Please do refer to the NHS website for further guidance and if required a medical professional.
Tip 3: Do things you enjoy
On days when the weather is cold and wet, it’s still important to take personal time to enjoy ourselves each day, whether it’s reading, watching a box set under a blanket, making handmade gifts or seasonal baking. It can also be fun to try something new, get creative or dust off an old hobby.
Tip 4: Stay connected
Making the effort to have conversations with colleagues at work or having a friendly chat over the phone, online or meeting friends in a way that feels comfortable to you can help you feel connected.
Tip 5: Look after your physical health
- Keep active – it’s important to keep moving, but it can be more difficult to go outdoors in wintery weather. Instead, perhaps go to the gym, or if at home, you could walk the stairs or try an online exercise or yoga workout.
- Keep warm – Public Health England recommends that indoor temperatures should be between 18 and 21 degrees. There are lots of ways you can keep warm or heat the room.
- Eat well – eat regular nourishing, hot meals including plenty of vegetables.
- Stay hydrated – drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid each day and have regular hot drinks on cold days.
- Sleep well – Sleep has a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Improving your sleep hygiene means finding routines and habits that help you to get the best possible night’s sleep. This could be making your bedroom as comfortable, as quiet and as dark as possible; following a nightly bedtime routine; not looking at your phone before bed; or trying relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Manage your screen time – too much screen time diminishes mood, builds fatigue and creates too many distractions. It is well known that blue light emitted by digital devices especially in the couple of hours before bed can disrupt the circadian rhythm. If you find it difficult to put your device down try switching to night mode or even using a your sunrise clock to simulate a sunset for when you want to go to sleep.
How can PAM Wellbeing Help?
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP): Access to a 24/7 confidential helpline answered by qualified counsellors for in-the-moment emotional support. As well as wellbeing resources to support a variety of personal and professional issues.
Mental Health Webinars: Increase awareness of mental health in the workplace by booking our workshops and training on specialist topics relating to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.