Rory Strong - Director, DMJ Recruitment
Everyone seems to have a different idea of when the hardest time of year is: Some speculate November – when daylight fades earlier and earlier into the afternoon and most the day is clouded by night. Other suggest the first Monday of the New Year – when everyone is back in the office after a vegetative and peaceful Christmas, and work has yet to pick up. Others say February – when the winter drags and Spring can’t come soon enough… Everyone has their own idea of which time of year is that special time creeping at the pace of a snail they could wish away. One thing all of these suggestive dates have in common - The cold and long-drawn out dark of Winter…
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as explained by psychologists, is the depression spread across late autumn and winter relating to the lack of light. SAD, or Winter Depression, may seem like an old wives’ tale, but is, in fact, a severe phenomenon affecting up to 3 in 100 people in the UK, according to international health insurer Bupa. Some common symptoms of SAD include, low concentration, weight gain, low energy levels, difficulty waking up in the morning, persistent low mood, feelings of despair and irritability. SAD commonly begins impacting individuals in their 20s and 30s, thus inadvertently targeting individuals in the workforce. Needless to say, SAD can be detrimental to workplace performance and challenging to combat for many individuals. Considering how busy the legal market currently is, lawyers cannot afford to be unproductive for several months of the year.
There are, of course, several prescriptive ideas of how to alleviate the impacts of SAD in the workplace, thus overall relieving individuals of work performance stress and improving life quality at a difficult time. Some of these include:
- Communicating and Accepting SAD at the Office: While it’s never easy to voice negative emotions, it can be very helpful forming an honest dialogue with those trusted individuals close to you about your potential experience of SAD and what to do to improve upon your day-to-day life. Sometimes, this may even include an open discussion with your favourite manager, to give insight and context into the impact SAD may be having to your quality of work and hear ideas and suggestions to gently improve. What are all of the health benefits in your compensation package there for if your boss won’t remind you when to use them?
- Prioritizing Health: Particularly inhouse legal counsels can be blessed by office environments allowing the prioritization of personal affairs through flexible hours. If you can take a break at lunch to go pick up your kids from school and then pick up on the leftover work in the evening, why not find a way to exercise the same flexibility to your wellbeing? Surely you are worth it…
- Seeing the Sunlight, Smelling the Fresh Air: On the note of using flexible hours for the better, why not ensure you see the sun each day and get at least a 30-minute walk outside for a change of pace and to re-energize. Sure, this can be hard to motivate oneself to do in the cold. But when wrapped up well in hats and scarves, the brisk air can really clear the mind, massively increasing quality of work.
- Engaging in Wellness and Fitness Activities: And while outside, why not motivate yourself to go on a run or a bicycle ride to pump the endorphins in your system and make you forget about the grey clouds? A lot of businesses are wonderful in incentivising employees to take part in such activities – we at DMJ for example are currently running the Thames Race against other groups through collective step count! Team building + Exercise!
- Be Honest, Non-Judgemental and Assess: Don’t judge yourself if taking these actions don’t immediately improve the way you feel or if you don’t feel comfortable taking these particular steps to feel better. Different things work for different people. It’s simply important to recognize these patterns and emotions and address them, when possible. In this light, when being honest with yourself, maybe it’s even wroth recognizing that, if you take all the steps you can think of to feel better and nothing improves, it may be time for a bigger change in pace or setting.
- Ask Yourself: Is the ultimate cure for my SAD a new job? Not to be too opportunistic here as a recruitment consultant; but evaluating whether it is simply SAD causing your malady or a bigger beast may be important and SAD may be the motivator for you to take a step back and assess your day-to-day, your work/life balance, your career goals and priorities, and see if you are still on track. If you are – then go on a run or take a long bath! If you’re not sure – maybe it’s time to go window shopping for jobs and figure out which career adjustment will make you happy.
SAD is a serious ailment we need to be aware of and recognize to aid, especially in the long-Winter months. It’s important to understand whether SAD is the cause or the symptom of a larger issue and thus it is always good to take a step back and assess. So, if you are feeling low this Winter, consider trying some of the suggestions above and see what lifts the blues and makes you feel like summer again! And if none of them work… book in your annual leave… That’s what I do!