After the clocks go back at the end of every October, we all get less exposure to natural daylight, which can affect the levels of serotonin in our brains have a big impact on our moods.
This year, as most of us work from home, it’s likely that we’ll get even fewer hours of sunlight than usual without the daily commute or trips out of the office to grab lunch. Because of this, more people might experience low mood and SAD symptoms.
With fewer hours of daylight, we might feel less motivated, more lethargic and irritable or experience feelings of unhappiness. We might even develop bad habits as a result of feeling low, such as reaching for unhealthy snacks or shying away from interacting with other people. Some people are more affected by the change of the seasons than others and might suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
By making a few changes to your daily routine, you can combat SAD symptoms and improve your mood while working from home.
Take a stroll
Earlier in the year, in the first stage of lockdown, many of us found ourselves walking more frequently during our ‘government-sanctioned daily exercise’. Lockdown 2.0 feels very different, partly because of the change of season. However, trying to get out of the house for a walk over lunch or before you start working is a really good way of increasing your exposure to sunlight.
Move your body
Not only does exercise encourage your brain to release endorphins (happy chemicals), it also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and crucially, serotonin. Making an effort to move your body, whether that be by fitting in an online exercise class or going for a run (or walk) in your lunch hour or after you finish for the day, can make a big difference.
Eat vitamin-rich foods
Maintaining a balanced diet of food rich in vitamins (such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish) can help too. Instead of snacking on biscuits or crisps while working from home, try swapping these for dried fruits, nuts or yoghurt. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with a number of different mood disorders, so vitamin D supplements might help too.
Buy a SAD lamp
To compensate for the lack of sunlight, you might consider buying a SAD lamp (sometimes known as a lightbox). SAD lamps are designed as a form of light therapy. They project light at a brightness that can positively affect our bodies by improving chemical and hormone levels.
Alternatively, try and sit near the window while you’re working.
Prioritise your sleep
Poor sleep can have a big impact on mood, so even if you struggle to get your nightly 8 hours, try and make sure you have a good bedtime routine to help you drift off more easily.
Keep in touch
While we’re not able to see our colleagues in person at the moment, it’s never been more important to stay connected. Checking in with team members to say hi on the phone or by instant messaging on Slack or Microsoft Teams will not only make your feel better but will likely boost their mood too!
Take regular breaks
Make sure you take breaks often to give yourself some respite from your screen. Try to take a short break once an hour and make a drink or stretch your legs. Many of us also have flexible working nowadays, which enables us to take a longer lunch or additional breaks throughout the day; so make sure you make the most of this.
Set aside some time each day before or after work to do something that makes you happy. While we’re not able to do much at the moment, there are so many ways you can look after yourself from the comfort of your own home. Light some candles, watch your favourite show on Netflix, take a bath or make your favourite dinner.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re lacking motivation or aren’t feeling too cheery. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re in a unique set of circumstances and, coupled with the shorter days, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an off-day (or two!).
And lastly, if you’re struggling, try and let your manager or another colleague know how you’re feeling. They’ll appreciate your honesty and may even be able to relate to how you’re feeling.