EMBRACING THE DARK WORKING WINTER AHEAD

Winter Working

The concept of a winter lockdown sends many of us into a sheer state of apprehension. It’s not all doom and gloom, but wintertime is commonly associated with cold, dark days, and with the potential of another lockdown, there are concerns about how to cope during this period.  

With remote working looking more likely for most for the current time, creating a healthy working environment and ensuring a balance between home and work life is a necessity now more than ever. Having the ability to escape to the outdoors and exercise in other environments has made the challenges of the pandemic easier to endure. But with the night’s drawing in, what techniques should we be applying to maintain a balanced state of mind? 

With the winter months fast approaching, more people begin to slide into a stage of a depressive mindset, yearning for the warmer, longer hours of daylight that many were lucky to have over the lockdown period. We need to prepare for the onset of winter, the impact it has on our wellbeing and be ready (and willing) to explore the benefits and opportunities available over the coming months. And look on the bright side, at least this year you need not worry about trick or treaters or the melodic sounds of carol singers on your doorstep. 

The winter can be a challenging time, particularly with the implications of the pandemic and the potential of further lockdown measures. In many countries, shorter days are associated with lethargy and low mood levels, causing what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s clear that our society is quite vulnerable to our changing environment, yet we can implement coping mechanisms, and create a mindset that yields both resilience and positivity. 

Lessons to learn from the Nordic Region 

This aspect of psychological resilience is particularly visible in the Nordic region and is something that can provide valuable lessons for us all residing in the UK. Transitioning this level of fear and stress related to the looming winter months into individual challenges is a mindset change that we are all capable of doing. Whatever way the pandemic is impacting you, we should consider it as an opportunity to adapt and learn in new conditions. 

Is it in your head? 

It can be easy to fall into the category of those that dread the winter months, but there are ways of creating your coping mechanisms. Many people do resent the winter months and believe there is little they can do to improve their time during this period. But if you focus on mindset and ways of managing it, then it becomes quite clear that we can empower our feelings towards the winter. Adopting a positive winter outlook can significantly improve the situation over the coming months and make a potential second lockdown far more manageable. 

 

Continue to embrace the outdoor life 

Evening Cycle

Continue to embrace the outdoor life 

Okay, it may not be as appealing when the days are dark, wet and cold but we need to get outdoors. Exercising outdoors is critical to our health and wellbeing. And the mindset approach does have a part to play. Running in the cold and rain is very exhilarating. Take cold water swimming, for example. Outdoor swimming is something that has grown considerably, mainly due to people realising the impacts it has on their health, wellbeing and state of mind – and possibly heightened even more during the winter when the elements may be at their harshest. 

Katy Griffin, the founder of Thera-Sea who operates wellbeing retreats in Cornwall, explains that she created her business primarily due to the rising number of degenerative diseases and mental disorders related to increased stress levels and unhealthy lifestyles. “We reconnect people with the natural environment and bring health and wellbeing back to basics” explains Katy. “Our retreats are based on six key lifestyles of medicine:- exercise, relaxation, purpose, sleep hygiene, nutrition and healthy relationships”. 

The pandemic has had an impact on the quality of life and personal wellbeing, but there are several coping mechanisms that people have used to maintain a healthy balance.  

Creating a structured working environment 

For those working from home, creating a structured office or work station and ensuring sufficient time for breaks, exercise and homelife is a necessity. Continuing to eat well, and generally look after personal health is something that often gets overlooked, but in reality, must remain a top priority. 

Be Resilient 

Only the individual can channel a positive outlook of a particular situation. Even in these challenging times, we need to explore the opportunities, embrace the potential of learning new skills, spend more time with family and utilise the added time to exercise more. A resilient and positive mindset is what is paramount during the winter months. 

Adapting to the darker days 

The shorter, darker days are inevitable, and so we should be readily prepared and capable of adapting our lifestyle and interests to what is possible during this time. Use the winter to embrace something new, continue to maintain a good diet, sleep well and spend as much time as you can with family. Keep positive and ensure you balance all of this to enable a productive workflow. 

Eat Healthily, Stay Healthy 

 

 

Lemon and Ginger

Looking after yourself and your health must remain a top priority, particularly throughout the winter months. Our nutrition and diet can be ignored when balancing home and work life. Sara Jackson, a Registered Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath, founder of SJ Health, provides wellness programmes that aim to empower people to live and breathe a healthy lifestyle. Through a combination of practical tips, recipes and lifestyle support, Sara offers nutritional guidance that has proven to transform the health and lifestyle of many people. Sara’s recommendations to strengthen and improve your immune system and fight off the winter bugs include: 

  1. Probiotic Foods, drinks and supplements – maintaining good gut bacteria is the first step towards creating a strong immune system. Fermented food and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha and kefir drinks reintroduce the beneficial bacteria back into the gut. These can be made at home or purchased at health food stores. 
  2. Increasing Natural Antibiotics – several great natural herbs can be used for the treatment of bacterial and viral infections. Echinacea has been validated as popular in preventing and reducing the recurrence, length and severity of colds. 
  3. Elderberry has been proven to be highly effective for flu treatment. It works most effectively when started within 2 days of signs of symptoms of flu. Elderberry is very high in antioxidants and consists of powerful anti-viral inflammatory actions. It can be taken by all ages. Recommended doses for flu treatment are 1 tbsp three times a day for adults and 1 tsp three times a day for children. 
  4. Garlic and Ginger are ideal for our immune system, with their multi-tasking natural antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties Garlic and Ginger compliment many meals, juices and smoothies. A fantastic tincture to soothe cold & flu symptoms:  grate a tsp of ginger root into hot water, steep for 5 mins then strain the ginger, add freshly squeezed lemon and raw/manuka honey to taste, let it cool then drink. Add some fresh turmeric for an even more powerful punch. 
  5. Keep drinking filtered water – water assists in carrying nutrients to our cells and transport important white blood cells to where they are most needed, and removing unwanted toxins in our body. We should aim to drink at least 8 glasses (approximately 1.5 – 2 litres) of water daily. 

Eating with the Season – Autumn provides so many nutrients to nourish and nurture: Take the lead from Mother Nature who has a knack for providing exactly what our bodies need and when.

  • Root vegetables are in themselves very grounding, as their name suggests. The roots that lie beneath these vegetables provide an anchor deep down in the ground and form a solid foundation for their growth. Embrace dietary powerhouses such as carrots, parsnips, ginger, pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes to help us connect to nature itself and boost our essential immune-supporting antioxidants such as alpha and beta carotene, the building blocks of Vitamin A, vitamin C, E, K, and B plus tons of gut friendly fibre. I love orange hued spicy root veg soups and adding sweet potato and ginger to a warming Autumnal lentil dahl. 
  • Mushrooms : I am a huge fan of mushrooms all year round, but they come into their own in Autumn. Like root vegetables, they can provide a very real connection to the earth. The fungi kingdom has survived for millennia by adapting to ever changing climates & environments – they were here long before us and will be here long after. Did you know that fungi have built an underground web-like connection with its branching threads, referred to as ‘the internet of nature’, that some say the world wide web was based on – it is like the smartest internet created by nature, right under our feet. Penicillin was even developed originally from a fungi and I frequently see the benefits in clinic of using bespoke mushrooms for  their anti-tumour, immuno-modulating, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties. 
  • We have all heard lots about Vitamin D in recent months as connected to Covid related immune support. Mushrooms naturally contain some Vitamin D, but you can supercharge your magic mushrooms by simply exposing them to sunlight while we still have it. Try placing any type of mushrooms in the sun between 10am-3p for between 30-60 mins to multiply their vitamin D content by up to tenfold. I love eating them warm with eggs and piles of fresh herbs for a Sunday brunch.

Adopting the ‘Niksen’ approach 

The Dutch phrase ‘Niksen’ refers simply to embracing and enjoying moments of doing nothing. Recent studies indicate that stress levels are relatively high in the UK. The implications of the pandemic and significant changes to our work and life balance could potentially add further pressure to these conditions of stress. In contrast, the Netherlands is renowned for low-stress levels, as proven in behavioural studies across the nation and for its leading position in the World Happiness Index. UNICEF recently labelled the children in the Netherlands as the happiest in the World. In the Dutch language, ‘Niks’ means ‘nothing’ and is interpreted in various ways by the Dutch people. What is clear, niksen doesn’t involve engaging, reading a book, watching tv or browsing different sites on your phone. Being busy is a familiar feeling for most people, but too much of this can lead to higher levels of stress. Once feelings of stress are triggered, it takes a prolonged period, and for some of us, this can continue if we do not allow ourselves to switch off. The Dutch people believe that just a few minutes of niksen each day can lower these peaks of stress and prolong them for extended periods. 

We are all capable of managing our mindset and in turn, responding to the impacts of the lockdown and the changing seasons, but it is a case of acknowledging and understanding how. By implementing some of the approaches discussed, we can create a level of resilience against these darker times, and embrace a more positive period of light and opportunity.

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