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Beating the Winter Blues

By Issy Parry on Wed 20 March 2024 in Placement Blog

Beating the Winter Blues

Nobody loves getting up early and seeing grey clouds and rain in the winter months, but it doesn’t have to get you down! Read Issy’s blog where she explores the ways to stay motivated and happy even when the sun isn’t shining…

Hi! I’m Issy, one of the Marketing Executive placements here at ProspectSoft. I study at Swansea University doing a Marketing degree and have been at ProspectSoft for 7 months now and it has flown by! I wanted to write this blog to help share my thoughts and feelings with some advice on a topic that has had a large impact on me, both at Uni and at work during my Placement Year… the Winter Blues.  

Over the past few months, the shorter days and rain clouds have not gone unnoticed for me. Spring and Summer are my favourite months and I love it when the weather shifts to be brighter and days become longer! The weather does have a massive impact on my mood and motivation for work and how I spend my free time outside of the office. When the sun is out, I always notice the positive impact on how I’m feeling and my approach to things. Having said this, I try my best to get out of the Winter Blues and focus on maintaining a positive mindset and remember that there are brighter days ahead!  

During the winter months, I usually get this overriding feeling of tiredness, low energy, less motivation, and gloominess. It’s something that I’m not alone in as statistics from the Mental Health Foundation say around 1 in 15 people in the UK experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, particularly during winter. That's a significant number of us feeling the effects of the winter blues. In one NHS article, Alison Kerry, from the mental health charity MIND, said: “With SAD, one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up. It’s thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.” 

I particularly struggle on days that are negatively impacted by weather conditions where it doesn’t stop raining, or the wind has impacted my ability to do things that get me out of the house. At Uni, I’m part of the rowing society and as you can imagine, being a water sport, it was impacted massively by tide levels, wind, and occasionally rain. This meant that over the winter months, it was harder for me to exercise and do the hobby that I enjoyed the most. This year, I’ve made it my goal to go out for a 40-minute walk at lunchtime and when the weather is cold, or rainfall is heavy it restricts my ability to do this. Being stuck inside all day isn’t the best environment for a positive mind and supports the idea of daylight being the main cause of SAD. I think this is when I feel the lowest and impacts my level of motivation and concentration at work, and previously at university. 

As you can see if you share the same feelings as me, it's something that you aren’t alone in. Over the last few years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to keep the winter blues at bay, or at least to a minimum. 

Light Therapy 

Firstly, I've discovered the importance of light therapy. With shorter days and less sunlight during winter, our bodies can really miss those vitamin D mood boosts. Investing in a light therapy lamp has been a game-changer for me. Just sitting in front of it for 20-30 minutes each morning while I sip my morning coffee and go through emails and any overnight activity on our social pages has made a noticeable difference in my energy levels and overall mood. I’ve also been trying to get outside on a walk at lunchtime which not only stretches my legs but also gets me outside in the fresh air. Even if it’s cold or there's a bit of rain, I’ll just make sure I’ve got my coat and wellies on!  

Exercise 

Leading on from this is fitness and health which should always be a priority every day not only helping to positively impact your body physically, but mentally too. I know it can be easier said than done if you're not in the mood or feeling low, but consistency is key with this! Once you go to the gym, or for a run once, you’ll be more inclined to go again. The best advice I can give is to exercise when it fits into your schedule best to make you more inclined to go - then stick with it. For some, this may mean getting up early before work or your 9 am lecture and others may find straight after work/Uni or later in the evening is better. Sometimes you may not be in the mood to go to the gym, I must admit I often get to the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is work out when it's dark outside. I either push myself to go to the gym or I’ll do something with friends that will encourage me to get out of the house, recently I have been booking out badminton courts. This is great as it isn’t weather dependent and is really good fun with your mates so it’s a win-win for me. When the days get a bit longer, I’m looking to start to play tennis. This is something I did a bit at Uni for fun, so it would be good to try at home too. Whatever you do, you will thank yourself after because you’ll be high off the serotonin, and this immediately lifts your low mood.  

At the weekends I have also been trying to stay consistent with running, so I’ll get up and go in the morning to help boost my mood early and get outside when I can. Park runs are great for this. Luckily, I have a few that I can take part in, and if you’re unsure if there’s any near you, most have a Facebook group or have a look on Strava (a social running app) that can point you in the right direction. If running isn’t for you, there are great walks that Strava can provide you with that will all be local too. So even getting out for a brisk walk will help you get into a positive frame of mind for the day. 

Social Connections: 

It can be hard not to just let yourself shut down and stay locked up in your room in the winter months. Your bed may become your favourite place to be, however, getting out of your room to spend time with others could help to lift you out of your winter blues and get you smiling. Psychologist Susan Pinker said: “Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, they protect you now, in the present, and well into the future, so simply […] shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.”  

This shows how important social connectivity is in everyday life and how it's just as important as exercise for your well-being. I always try to make time at the weekends and during the week if I can, to see friends. I also make time with family so that I can connect with those closest to me to over a coffee, head to the pub or watch a movie together so that we can have a laugh and share how we’re both doing. This is great to do as opening up about how you’re feeling with someone you’re comfortable with can give you the help you need and provide you with a close support system when you need it most. Don’t only look out for yourself by socialising, but for others too as they may be feeling the same way.  

Lastly, I've learned to embrace the season rather than dread it. Winter brings its own unique charm! By focusing on the things that bring me joy during this time of year, I've found that the winter blues don't stand a chance. I hope that my personal journey with the winter blues and some tips for keeping them at bay has helped. Remember, it's okay to have those off days, but don't let the winter blues dim your mood for too long. Spring is just around the corner, bringing with it new beginnings and brighter days. 

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