For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere we are beginning our journey into the colder, darker months. In some ways we have been fearing these months because of the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 (unfortunately, it looks like it’s well on its way!) and all of the continued uncertainty it brings with it – socially and economically.
For many of us, though, it’s not just the Covid-anxiety blanket but it’s the change in season that impacts on us physically, mentally and emotionally although we are not always aware of what’s going on. I am not talking about just Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a serious condition that affects our mood, appetite, sleep and energy levels and can be debilitating for those who suffer from it – if you do think you suffer from SAD it’s definitely worth seeking medical advice!
This is more that sluggishness that we start to feel, the desire to stay under the covers for an extra 10 minutes, the shift in our energy levels for socialising and exercising. It’s not just physical though, during the shift in seasons we also have a different level of energy for the type of work we are doing. Most of us don’t have the same level of energy when delivering a presentation to the Board, it does take more out of us during the colder months than during the summer when we’re full of energy (& life).
The major contributing factor is in fact, light. Light has a significant impact on our circadian rhythm, our internal time-keeper, which tells us when we’re sleepy and when we’re awake. Our circadian rhythm controls our hormone release, body temperature, mood and metabolism. The less daylight there is the sleepier we feel and the less external energy we’re able to give.
Seasonal changes don’t necessarily affect us all in the same way.
You might notice that you just don’t have the same energy levels as you did, say in, May or June and that’s your body preparing for the cold winter months of hibernation. At work, this is the perfect time to get things done. You may not be as high energy as you were but this is the time to prepare for the winter months. Organise those projects, get the right people in your team, whatever it is you need to do so that the winter months can be spent in deep thought or getting through the workload. It’s not a high-energy time, it’s a slower pace, it’s completing the admin and recognising all of the achievements of the summer months.
Most importantly, keep up with your healthy habits, especially movement and nutrition. Some of the other things you can ensure take priority are getting out during the sunlight hours. How many times have you heard yourself (or someone else) saying, ‘Winter is so depressing. I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark. I never see the daylight’? Get out in the sunlight! Hopefully, one positive from the forced working from home situation is that most of us can get out during the day & we don’t have to commute in the dark for this year! There are some benefits to this whole Covid situation!
By the way, a lack of sunlight also means we’re not getting enough Vitamin D through the cooler months which affects the strength of our teeth, bones and muscles. Some studies have suggested a lack of Vitamin D also affects mood and mental health. The NHS recommends that most adults need to take a Vitamin D supplement through the autumn and winter months because in the UK we do not gain enough Vitamin D from sunlight alone and it is very difficult to consume and absorb Vitamin D from our diet.
Another element, which is often neglected, is to continue to focus on your social connections. Having trusted relationships is so hugely beneficial to our overall wellbeing but also really helps during these cooler months. We may not want to go out partying but there’s something to be said for having a lovely meal (if we’re allowed) or having a chat with someone about how you are feeling, what’s happening in your life, how you’re coping, or just having a laugh. Our emotional health can be surprisingly beneficial to our mood and energy levels.
Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, you’re now coming out of hibernation and into the fully energetic months, now is the time to reap the rest you have had and get yourself out there (perhaps metaphorically for this year!) – use that renewed energy positively and purposefully. And, enjoy the increased day light hours.
As a leader, it’s often easier to notice behaviour in others than reflect on our own behaviour. Take the time this month to notice how you feel, how you’re sleeping and your general energy levels. Once you’re aware of your own, think about the energy levels of your team and what you as a team need to adapt this month in order to be effective and not fighting against something that is out of your control.
If you want to find out more about adapting your focus and style during the shifting season, get in touch with Bernadette firstname.lastname@example.org we have specific workshops for this as well as 1:1 or team coaching to support you and your team.