Winter wellbeing: 10 tips for busy professionals to stay healthy, social, and happy over winter
With the shift to darker mornings and colder climates, it's time for a little extra self-care.
In the run up to Christmas, things can get stressful. As projects need to be finalised in time for the festive holidays, schedules can get increasingly busier. Add darker mornings and shorter days into the mix, and it's not hard to see why we might feel a little under the weather.
So, how do you stay healthy, social, and happy to start the new year afresh?
1/ Keep it bright
Melatonin gets its name “hormone of darkness” as it is only released in response to darkness. Although melatonin doesn’t make you sleep, as levels rise in the evening, it puts you into a state of wakefulness that helps promote sleep. Now you see why when you drive to work in the dark only to sit in an artificially lit office and then return home in the dark, it can affect melatonin levels – giving you a feeling much akin to jet lag.
To counteract this, make sure your work area is well lit, keep blinds open to make the most of natural light, take regular breaks from your screen, and try to get some fresh air outside - just make sure to wrap up warmly!
2/ Try a change of scenery
Instead of working from the same space every day, why not change your surroundings? Work from the kitchen, hot desk from another office, pop to a coworking space, or work from home.
A change in setting is always good for a reset and refresh. If you leave the comfort of your desk, you have a chance to meet new people to reinvigorate you. If you’re at home, it could be an opportunity to really focus on the tasks at hand.
3/ Work flexibly
Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee's needs. Where a role allows, examples could be having flexible start and finish times or working from home.
Examples of flexible working:
Flexible location – offering opportunities to work from different locations. This can mean working from home or a local workspace nearer to home.
Flexible hours – the choice to start and finish work earlier or later (8-5 or 9-6). This gives employees more chances to fit their hobbies, exercises and even those life administration tasks, such as booking your car for MOT, or dentist appointments, into the day.
Flexible break times – the flexibility to choose when you have breaks during the working day. That way, employees have a little more daylight time.
The benefits of working flexibly:
For the employee, the benefits may be to reduce difficult journeys, save on commuting times and expenses, can combine caring and work responsibilities for a better work/life balance, ultimately resulting in a greater output leading to job satisfaction.
For the employer, they may use it as a recruitment tool to attract the best talent, improve retention of skilled and valued employees, reduce the cost of office accommodation, and increase morale, commitment, and loyalty.
4/ Get physical
Any type of exercise is good for you – it just needs to be something you enjoy so you keep at it.
If you can cycle, the Cycle2Work scheme encourages biking to work by helping employees spread out the costs of owning a bike. Plus, it helps save the planet!
5/ Take a walking meeting
Research has found that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. Take the pressure from being in a formal setting and go for a walk for your next meeting.
6/ Be prepared
Winter is coming! If you drive, a few minutes of vehicle maintenance could see you save hours of headaches. Get a car service, check your tyre pressure, top up your engine coolant, clean your lights, and prepare in advance for longer journeys.
7/ Eat well
As the temperature drops, it’s only natural to find yourself reaching for stodgy (but tasty) comfort food. Everything is okay - in moderation! You shouldn’t deny yourself a treat now and again but do eat a balanced and varied diet.
Eating in season and locally sourced produce is a great way to ensure you’re getting the tastiest fruit and veggies all year round. We love this guide to the seasonal UK grown produce here!
8/ Refresh your office
Just how a change of scenery is good for the soul, so is a workspace refresh.
Some people work fabulously well surrounded by clutter; others need to organise and colour coordinate within an inch of their lives – we’re not here to judge.
Whether it’s the addition of a plant, a reorganisation or even a new chair – refreshing your workplace can make you more comfortable and productive. Taking the time to look after your space is also a form of self-care, and the very act of doing so can make you happier.
9/ Practice mindfulness
Our brains constantly chatter away - planning, designing, thinking what we will do, what we have done. This is normal! The idea of mindfulness is not to be in a state of zen – most of us are not Zen Masters. Instead, the idea is to be present and attentive to our thoughts and actions in the moment.
A noteworthy way to bring us back into the moment is the 5,4,3,1 countdown for anxiety. Look around you and notice:
5 things you can see: The sky, the trees, the window, your colleague, your mouse
4 things you can physically feel: Your hands, your feet on the ground, the table, your mug
3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, workmen outside, the whirr of your laptop
2 things you can smell: Coffee, soap
1 thing you can taste: a mint, your drink
This exercise helps you shift your attention from whatever makes you tense to your surroundings in the present.
10/ Create a fun environment
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy! And with the average person spending 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, you can see why no play can turn your blue skies grey.
Amy Hodgins-Carvajal, creative director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, explains that their working environment is a “…playful environment, and we make it a really fun atmosphere, where people are encouraged to share and aren't overly criticized."
We know that for specific industries, having fun on the job just isn’t an option – for example, there’s not much room for distractions while performing a triple heart bypass!
However, making time for team bonding activities is paramount to increased motivation, better working relationships and ultimately increased productivity. From team games, creative activities, and outdoor recreation to a simple team lunch or dinner. Anything to unwind, relax, and be more than your job title!