How To Stay Productive In The Winter If The Blues Are Destroying Your Concentration, According To Experts
The holiday season has always been separate from winter in my mind, so for me, Jan. 2 is the official start to the coldest season. The way I see it, there’s just not a lot to look forward to after New Year’s Day, except, like, springtime. Don’t get me wrong, I love cuddling under a gigantic throw blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. But I don't love how the lack of sunshine coming through my blinds makes me feel sluggish. Sound familiar? Trust me, if you’ve ever wondered how you can stay productive in the winter, you’re not alone. It’s a very real struggle that a whole lot of people grapple with from the beginning of January all the way through March.
Of course, it's important to note that there's a difference between hints of the winter blues that kind of ebb and flow from one day to the next, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which, according to the chief science officer of TAO Connect, Dr. Sherry Benton, affects 500,000 people every year. Anyone can experience bouts of depression or anxiety over the course of these four frigid months — there are so many elements of the winter season that can make it feel like the most humdrum time of year — but SAD is a clinically diagnosed condition, and should be worked through with a professional, according to Dr. Benton.
Whether you’re experiencing SAD, or have periods of time in the winter when you feel low and lethargic, becoming stagnant in both your work and personal life can be a byproduct of that, Benton tells Elite Daily. It’s a combination of cold weather, sickness, time changes, and post-holiday slumps, she explains to me over email. “For a lot of people, coming back from the holidays and immediately having to return to work or school with no time off can be daunting and force them to lose motivation,” she says, adding that the cold weather can also be a factor, as it tends to make people a little more sedentary than they’re used to in the warmer months.
To help you combat these feelings of lethargy and maintain (at least somewhat) productive vibes during the next four months, here are some expert tips to get sh*t done, despite the cold weather weighing you down.
Make Sure You're Getting Enough Magnesium In Your Diet
Productivity can be hindered by anxiety and stress, especially in the wintertime, because many people tend to feel antsy around this time of year, yet limited in the ways they can exert that built-up energy. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical advisory board member for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, tells Elite Daily that one of the best ways to combat winter anxieties and the inability to concentrate is to take a magnesium supplement.
"Magnesium is known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral and is a natural way for people to cope with SAD or stave off SAD and boost their mood," Dean explains. "Studies have shown that magnesium calms the nervous system, relaxes muscle tension, and lowers the pulse rate, helping to reduce anxiety and stress levels."
Make A To-Do List And Place Copies All Around Your Living Space
Sometimes the best kind of motivation is self-motivation, so if you're having a hard time putting ideas into practice this winter, Dr. Sharon Saline, psychologist and author of the book What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life, tells Elite Daily that making to-do lists can help. The catch? Saline's to-do lists aren't made up of chores; instead, they include activities you actually enjoy doing, like watching a movie, getting a cup of coffee with a friend, or joining your co-workers for happy hour.
"Consider things you like to do — big and small — and write these down," Saline suggests. "Post this list in a few places and make yourself do one thing each day."
Take Vitamin D To Boost Your Mood And Productivity
Daylight Saving Time can be a real mood-killer, in that the days are shorter, which means the sun goes down earlier and natural light comes in short supply. Luckily, sunshine isn't the only source of vitamin D: There's a supplement (or thousands) for that.
"Most Americans are lacking in vitamin D year-round, but with gray days and cold weather, the lack of time spent outside greatly exacerbates the shortage of vitamin D, increasing the risk of seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and depressed moods, which in turn leads to lost productivity," Dr. Nidhi Ghildayal, who holds a PhD in public health from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, tells Elite Daily. To boost your vitamin D levels sans sunlight, Ghildayal suggests eating a diet rich in fatty fishes like salmon, drinking fortified milk, and taking an over-the-counter supplement for good measure.
Dedicate 10 Uninterrupted Minutes To Focusing On One Task
One of my New Year's resolutions going into 2019 was to finally commit to writing a novel. The problem is, after writing all day every day for my job, my ability to sit down and concentrate on writing even more goes right out the window. To make things a bit easier, I've started setting timers for myself, dedicating a specific window of time to one task. According to author, speaker, and productivity consultant, Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO, setting these small parameters for yourself can often be a great starting point.
Shutting off your TV and setting aside any distractions like your phone is crucial here. Once your work space is free of any potential diversions, Segura suggests choosing one task to work on for 10 minutes at a time. "The feeling of accomplishment from that 10 minutes will motivate you to attempt additional 10-minute rounds," she tells Elite Daily.
Make (And Keep) Plans
You're less likely to flake on a gym class you had to sign up and pay for to secure your spot, right? If you call up your BFF to schedule brunch weeks in advance, chances are, when that day comes, you'll be at that restaurant, cheersing bottomless mimosas, and gabbing about the latest gossip in your circle.
"If you schedule something in advance like a workout class or coffee with a friend, you are less likely to cancel and you’ll feel refreshed when you need to be productive," Forrest Bryant, Evernote’s editorial director and the host of the podcasts Taking Note and Focus Culture, tells Elite Daily. So sign up for that painting class, join the gym, or go to events that pique your interest. Pencil things into your schedule, and you'll probably be way more likely to see them through.
Go Outside For A Bit, Even If It's Cold
Yes, it is cold outside, but I'm pretty sure the front door to your apartment or dorm isn't frozen shut. When you need to feel productive, Christina Friedman, founder of WomensFitnessHQ.com, says bundling up and going outside to take in the fresh air can do a whole lot of good, even if it's just for a few minutes.
"Natural light, even when it's semi-cloudy outside, can revitalize you and give you energy," she says over email. "It also signals to the body and brain that it's time to wake up and get moving. Whereas if you stay inside in the dark, your brain is going to want to shut down and go to sleep."
If nothing else, it gives you the opportunity to break in those new Uggs you love, right?