Seasonal affective disorder: meaning, symptoms, effects on our work

As soon as winter arrives, the cold and the lack of light have a direct impact on our mind, on our physical condition and on our motivation to work. The days are shorter, we have less light and less time outside to recharge our batteries, but we keep the same rhythm as in summer at the office.

This winter depression affects a large part of the population, especially in northern countries, and not everyone can go away for a week in the sun in winter!

This change of light and temperature is not at all harmless to the body and to our ability to concentrate, and it is necessary to readjust our rhythm of life and work and to take measures to minimise the repercussions on our body.

What does Seasonal affective disorder mean? What are the symptoms and its effects on our work, on the human being or in motivating ourselves to look for a new job? How to fight the Winter Blues and minimise the effects on our bodies and ensure that it does not impact on our work?

Definition and repercussions of Seasonal affective disorder on our mind and body

The winter blues is a seasonal depression, a seasonal affective disorder that involves great fatigue and a change in mood due to a lack of light in winter.

This lack of energy and motivation, which may seem harmless, is not to be taken lightly, as it has a direct and significant impact on our body.

Indeed, sunlight prepares melatonin, which is the sleep hormone in our body. This hormone must be correctly synthesised during the night in order to sleep well. A lack of light and therefore of melatonin can lead to sleep disorders and be a factor in the accumulation of fatigue, which can have an impact on our mind and reduce our efficiency at work.

Another effect of this lack of sleep is the fragility of our immune system. This has been clearly seen since the onset of the corona crisis, with the number of cases increasing dramatically as temperatures and days decrease. We become more vulnerable to viruses and despite this, we keep the same pace as in summer when the sun is out, and the days are longer.

In addition, it is important to know that in winter, our body naturally has a new rhythm, it goes into hibernation in order to store energy which is scarcer in winter.

Seasonal and societal rhythms

During the winter, nature goes on standby. The fauna and flora take a winter break with a slowing down of their activities. But our society today ignores this change of season and continues its rhythm and activity regardless of the weather, denying all what this implies for the body and the mind.

What makes winter and the lack of sunshine complicated is that we leave for work before the sun has risen and come home after dark…we hardly see the natural light of the day. The only light that keeps us awake is the artificial light of the office.

We work 40 hours at the same pace as in the summer when the days are longer and hotter. The discrepancy between the biological clock and the societal clock is growing. This has a direct impact on our morale and our ability to work efficiently. Less sleep means more fatigue and a weakening of our immune system and there is an increase in viruses and absenteeism from work during these winter months. For job seekers it also becomes more difficult to motivate themselves to get out of bed and send out CVs until the sun is up.

What if we followed the rhythm of the sun in winter? How to balance everything?

According to the poll we created on LinkedIn Mid-December, the majority of the participants, with 51%, is feeling a general loss of motivation but it doesn’t affect their work or their job search. 24% replied that the start of winter doesn’t have any impact on their moral and work and 24% replied that they don’t have any more motivation.

We can clearly see for the 41 people who participated to this vote, that the change of weather and light has an impact on their motivation. But the majority don’t feel any change in their efficiency to work.

It would be interesting to re do this poll end of February after 3 months of winter and compare the results!

So what if we adapted our professional activity to the rhythm of the sun? It is very common to hear our colleagues say that they feel down when the winter months arrive. What if we managed to slow down our activity and organise our working hours differently in order to reduce the consequences of the lack of sunshine?

Today, home office has become almost the norm, or sometimes compulsory, when the number of cases of coronavirus increases significantly. Working from home allows us to sleep longer and to take a longer break at noon to enjoy the few hours of sunshine.

If you still go to the office, take the time to go out and stretch your legs despite the cold. On the one hand, this gives you a bit of exercise, and on the other hand, as soon as the sun gets into your eyes, your body secretes more melatonin. This prepares you for a good night’s sleep.

If you cannot go outside when there is light, there are light therapy lamps that can help you. These lamps are available in specialised shops and half an hour a day is sufficient. Remember to ask your doctor for advice before buying one.

You should also accept that you don’t have to do as much in winter as in summer. It’s also great to spend your weekend watching the Lord of the Rings long version! Let’s learn to let go without feeling guilty.

To conclude

We all know the seasonal affective disorder, the tiredness and lack of motivation in the office or while looking for a new job as soon as the days get shorter. Unfortunately, we cannot control the length of the day or the weather. But we can do something to lessen the impact of this seasonal change of pace on our bodies and our morale.

Slow down; if you can, work from home; get out for a walk when the sun is shining and accept a little less work! Your body and your mind will thank you.


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