A man in a jumper with his head resting on his arms looking out the window at the rain. It’s Blue Monday and he looks sad.
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Blue Monday: How to deal with the January blues at work

21 Jan 2019

January is always a tough month to get through, but Dr Preethi Daniel has some advice to help employees stay positive.

The Christmas buzz and initial excitement of entering 2019 is slowly being replaced by early wake-ups, grim weather and challenging resolutions. Some of you may be thinking, ‘How am I supposed to get through the rest of winter? How am I going to stay productive and positive?’

Is it possible that you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), more commonly known as the winter blues?

SAD is common, and it can affect people from all walks of life. As the days get darker, and the more you wake up before the sun rises, you might start feeling a persistent low mood or lack of energy. You may be struggling to concentrate and it’s possible you may even find less pleasure in doing your usual activities.

Sleeping longer is another major issue on those cold mornings. Some of you may be feeling a little worthless among your colleagues who all seem to be coping perfectly well in this dreary winter. These symptoms could mean you are suffering with SAD.

Fortunately, there are some simple tips and tricks you can follow to help you beat the winter blues.

Foods you can try

Carb-craving is a major problem in winter. Eating healthily, and aiming for all food groups and those that release energy slowly will cause fewer carb cravings and sluggishness.

Limit your sugar intake and do not rely on caffeine. Eat foods rich in folic acid such as leafy greens. There is some evidence we use it to make serotonin, which is a happy hormone. Eat berries. There is some evidence they prevent us releasing cortisol, which is responsible for stress.

Indulge if you must but make it dark chocolate. Antioxidants and polyphenols in them can significantly elevate your mood.

Keep active

Exercising regularly helps release those happy hormones. It also beats sluggishness and warms those muscles. If you find you are little demotivated at work, do some desk exercise or even go out for a brisk walk at lunchtime.

Open those curtains

Even on a cloudy day, we need natural light to reset our circadian clock. Not only that, light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD. You can use a light box, which is 10 times more powerful than office lighting. Sitting in front of it for 30 minutes can boost your mood.

There are also lighting devices available on the market that mimic a bright summer morning sunrise and create natural light in your room in the morning. By mimicking a natural sunlight, your body is tricked into feeling good and energetic for a busy day at the office.

Stock up on Vitamin D

Vitamin D is very important to maintain a good mood. We get it naturally from sunlight and store it in our skin. Unfortunately, on cloudy days we make less of it and deplete our stores quickly. This not only affects our mood, it also causes general aches and pains, further adding to woes. Taking good-quality over-the-counter supplements in the form of sprays or tablets would help.

Seek help

If you are trying really hard but are still finding those winter days a struggle, consider speaking to your GP or even your friends and family. Counselling, psychotherapy and medication can also be used to treat SAD. If you’re stretched for time at work, some private GPs offer video consultations, so there’s no excuse to struggle in silence – get the help you need.

By Dr Preethi Daniel

Dr Preethi Daniel is the clinical director at private GP chain London Doctors Clinic.

A version of this article originally appeared on Workplace Insight.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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