Often, freelancers spend a great deal of time indoors by themselves, stuck to their chair. Unfortunately, this makes them especially prone to the winter blues – or it’s more serious sister, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And it can still hit, even in February, because all those sparkly, brightly lit festive events are over, the ‘fresh start’ high of the New Year has disappeared… and the days are still short and dark.
So here are our survival tips:
Light Up Your Life!
- increase melatonin levels. This can make you sleepy and lethargic (making it even easier than usual to procrastinate).
- reduce your serotonin levels, affecting your mood and appetite.
- influence your ‘body clock’ (your circadian rhythm that controls body functions).
- Ensure you spend time outside – and if you have to stay indoors, don’t hide away in the dark corners. Spend time working or relaxing near a window.
- A sunrise clock may help you wake up; they aim to bring your body out of sleep gently, by gradually increasing the light they emit.#
Eat and Drink Healthily
Problem: When we’re cold, wet and feeling low, then the most appealing thing in the world is often stodgy and unhealthy food and continuous teas, coffees and hot chocolates brimming with marshmallows. But this kind of diet won’t help keep our energy and blood sugar levels consistent or help our immune system, so don’t fill your cupboard with these items.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables of different colours – if salad doesn’t appeal, blend them up to make soup.
- Choose low sugar, low fat alternatives to stodgy puddings.
- Try fruit teas, orange juice with cinnamon, honey and lemon, or malted drinks made with skimmed milk or hot water (but beware versions loaded with fat and sugar).
Keep Yourself Warm
Problem: If your body is fighting to keep warm, you’ll feel sluggish and find it hard to concentrate.
Solution: Keep yourself as warm as possible.
- several layers are better than thick jumpers
- heat your home adequately – remember that you can claim part of your utilities against tax. If your office or workroom is chilly, can you up sticks for a month or two and work somewhere else in the house?
- If you want to get out (or save on your heating bill!), then what about spending time working somewhere else warm and cosy? Take your laptop to the pub, library or cafe – and get the added benefit of contact with the outside world.
Stay In, Go Out, But Whatever You Do – Socialise!
Problem: There’s scientific proof that being by ourselves all the time isn’t good for our physical and mental health, and that the company of others, particularly if laughing and hugging is involved, is great for our wellbeing.
Solution: Invite friends round, go visiting and have a change of scenery as often as possible.
Exercise (Even When You Don’t Want To)
Problem: Hibernating and not getting any exercise isn’t great for your immunity and general health, and you’re missing out on those feel good endorphins.
Solution: Exercise! It will warm you up, increase your alertness and make you feel good too!
- Wrap yourself up warm and take a walk outdoors on brighter days
- Find an indoor activity you enjoy. Why not try an exercise or dance DVD, or a sport video game?
What about if you’re not just blue, but SAD?
You’re not alone. Over 2 million people in the UK suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is usually at its worst from December to February.
- SAD can cause depression, or it may cause you to swing between depression and hyper-energy.
- Sometimes stress or trauma such as bereavement or a new baby seems to be a trigger.
- SAD is most common in 18-30 year olds. If you are a sufferer, you can help yourself by:
- Follow the Winter Blues advice above
- Try a light box. Therapeutic light boxes produce light tat least ten times as intense as normal daylight. They’re available to buy or rent, so it’s best to rent one first to see if it works for you.
- See your GP. They can arrange counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), a structured course of light therapy, antidepressants or a combination of treatments,