The pandemic changed how teams operate on a massive scale in 2020. It has influenced the way we work and where we work. Without any doubts, working from home without the daily commute to the office has multiple implications over our lives. And not only in the summer, when it’s all green and sunny, but especially during the gloomy, cold winter season.
The existing state of affairs
The remote work trend doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, according to Upwork’s 2021 Future of Workforce Pulse report. An estimated one in four Americans will continue to work from home this year. At the same time, 41 percent of teams will be entirely remote and another 15.8 percent in hybrid mode.
Many professionals are feeling better about remote work since first making the transition. 68 percent of managers said their remote teams are performing better over time, according to the same Upwork report.
However, not everyone is benefiting from this shift according to another recent poll that surveyed 1,500 workers. 56 percent of remote employees deal with stress, depression, or loneliness compared to just 30 percent of office employees.
Unfortunately, the winter season can intensify this problem. With constant gray skies, fewer opportunities to socialize, and more time spent inside, winter is a common cause for anxiety and depression. Even without a pandemic on our hands! Add remote work on top of that, and the question becomes serious business:
If you still work from a home office, observing distancing requirements, or are even under lockdown, there are answers to that question. Let’s learn how to find peace and happiness this winter!
Mental health in winter time
Whether you are simply struggling with working from home or suffer from mental health issues already, this current winter season can be especially tough. In the United States, about 5 percent of adults experience a form of depression in the winter called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Cleveland Clinic reports that between 10 to 20 percent feel downcast in general during this time of the year.
This sense of gloom, combined with anxiety and isolation caused by the pandemic can take a toll on your work motivation, not to mention wellbeing. Elizabeth Dias, a writer for The New York Times, suggests that these next few months may be the most difficult.
She says, “[Winter] reminds us that darkness, not only light, is part of the recurring rhythm of what it means to be human.” With so much darkness behind us, from civil unrest to political upheaval and a global pandemic, it can be hard to accept that there are many months ahead of physical darkness as well.
What can you do to boost resilience, stay productive, and feel happy during this cold and dark time of year?
Improve your winter outlook like the Scandinavians
According to health psychologist Kari Leibowitz, you can start by adopting the mindset of other cultures, the Scandinavians, in particular. While her research accounts for the adverse impact of minimal sunlight on overall mood this time of year, Leibowitz finds that outlook can also determine how your mental health will fare in the winter months.
Her recent study was published in the International Journal of Wellbeing, which measures the level of resilience in Norwegian people. And the results are pretty stunning. Those with a positive outlook on the season will exhibit more life satisfaction, enjoyment, and balanced emotions, no matter their circumstances or environment.
Leibowitz calls this framework a “positive wintertime mindset” and explains that it’s not ignorance or indifference to hardship. Rather, it’s a paradigm shift and an ability to notice the pleasurable, beautiful aspects of this season too. Like, the crisp air in your lungs, a fresh snowfall beneath your feet, or a warm blanket across your shoulders.
To be quite honest, I prefer summer at any time. However, taking a deep breath of fresh, crisp cold air once in a while and praising the beauty of winter wonderland has its advantages, I give you that! So, yeah, let’s try to do it like they do it up there, in the North 😉
Fill up your mental toolbox
Although this winter will mostly be spent indoors alone or with a small group of friends and family, you can still embrace a positive mindset. This positive mindset stimulates your brain to be more focused, alert, energetic, and productive, reports Indeed.
It’s always like in physics–a matter of perspective. If you currently feel unmotivated, isolated, or depressed when working from home, then look for ways to alter your perspective.
- Gaze out the window and marvel at the beauty of nature.
- Step outside for a walk and breathe in the refreshing air.
- Brew some herbal tea and wear your coziest pair of socks during the workday.
- Light a few candles in the house to remind yourself that even in seasons of darkness, there is still brightness to be enjoyed.
To make these small shifts even more effective, add these psychologist-backed coping mechanisms to your toolbox too:
- Practice relaxation to calm the nervous system in times when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
- Create new healthy routines around nutrition, exercise, sleep, hobbies, relationships, and work-life balance to increase motivation, energy, and sense of purpose.
- Establish a support network of trusted people to connect with if your mental health is suffering. This can include relatives, friends, or a therapist, if accessible.
- Challenge and reframe the loop of catastrophic thought patterns that contribute to depression, anxiety, and other poor mental health outcomes. Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario, choose a mindset that’s both positive and realistic.
Survive and thrive this winter
It doesn’t matter how much longer you have to work from home. You can survive and even thrive this winter season with your mental health intact.
Resilience, satisfaction, and wellbeing are possible. Most of the times, it’s just a matter of perspective and having the right tools available whenever you need them. And don’t forget the deep breath of fresh air on that cold winter day 🙂