Ihate winter. I hate coats and shoveling snow. I love a road run, but hate bundling up (those cute outfits don’t fool me!). I’d rather sit by a bonfire in the back yard than by a fire place near a Christmas tree.
All in all, I’d take t-shirts over sweaters every day of the year.
For me, winter = dread: low production, low energy. Raise your hand if you feel my vibe.
The cold, overcast winter months bring with it a noticeable effect on your body:
- lack of energy
- change in appetite
- trouble sleeping
- slight to severe depression
These are all physical symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD.
It’s hard to be a strong leader with those weak descriptors invading our lives. The goal here is not just to survive winter but to THRIVE. And, avoiding a productivity and energy downtrend in the winter starts with a positive mindset and health strategy to keep your current momentum intact (more on mindset and “surviving vs thriving”).
Use these Wintertime Health Hacks to keep your energy up and your productivity thriving:
Hack #1: Stay Mentally Engaged by Creating Social Connections
Picture this: It’s 5 p.m. on sunny Wednesday in July. You receive an unexpected call from your buddy Tom. He says, “The wife and I are running over to grab dinner at the new restaurant, join us!”
Without a second thought, you drive from the office with windows down and sun on your skin. There’s no substitute for a warm, summer night and the ability to get out and enjoy it.
Post dinner you stand outside the restaurant and shoot the breeze after satisfying food and stimulating conversation. Sounds relaxing just thinking about it.
Now it’s December and the same phone call comes: same time of day + same friend = different answer; it’s been a long day, you just need to go home and relax in a quiet environment with a peaceful meal.
What changed? Your days are always long and demanding. In the summer, some how it’s energizing to go out, but in the winter it’s a drain. Your body is sending different signals trying to help you out, but the wrong message is being received. It’s saying “conserve energy, go home and rest”. Your body is actually saying is “make more energy, you’re running low.”
Health Hack Solution: See social connections during the winter months as a critical health component instead of a PR move; Facebooking, snapping, tweeting and phone calls don’t count. Electronics are a poor substitute for human interaction. Our brains need the quick stimulation of banter. We crave it.
No matter if you’re introverted or extroverted, positive personal interaction is necessary to keep your mind sharp. As a bonus you’ll get a little endorphin rush to brighten your day.
Get it done: Keep at least 2 in person social engagements a month. Keep it simple: meet a friend for coffee, have lunch, join a Bible study, or a workout group.
Health Hack #2: Control Your Mood and Sharpen Your Focus through Daily Exercise
Summer months demand activity: lawn mowing, golf outings, walks with kids or spouses, car washing, vacation…this list could go on forever. We take the time to breathe in the summer air, wave at the neighbor, and drink coffee on the deck before work. Work days and high maintenance employees are manageable when we are logging outdoor time without blinking an eye.
In the winter months, those same work days and employees become little enemies doing battle in your office while your brain claws at the walls begging for escape. It makes no sense! Why is everyone more irritating in the winter?!
The answer? They remain the same irritating people they always were and you’re the one who’s changed. This is a good thing. That means you’ve got control over the situation and it can be fixed.
Health Hack solution: Get moving. Aim for 20 minutes of heart rate increase a day from physical activity aka exercise.
Your immunity will improve, patience will increase, your brain with get fresh blood flow and your perceived stress will plummet. There’s tons of science to back this up, but the point is, leaders don’t have time for sick days, mood swings or slow responses as the result of poor blood flush throughout the body.
Get it done: 25 jumping jacks, 10 high knees, 8 lunges, 20 crunches and 10 pushups. 2-5 minute rest and repeat 2-3 times
Health Hack #3: Banish Brain Fog with supplemental Vitamin D
Summer food leans toward fresh colorful plates. Berries and produce are easy to come by and they look so tempting when you’re warm from the sun.
Pack in the vitamin D reaction that takes place when the sun touches your skin and you’re feeling pretty good.
To put it simply, your body and brain have more nutrition in the summer as a general rule.
Even if you continue to get the same food content that you took in mid summer, there’s no way to get the vitamin D needed because the UV rays aren’t strong enough after October.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunlight” vitamin affects every part of your body because every cell actually has a receptor for it. This vitamin acts like a hormone. When we have enough in our system, all things are normal, great even.
It’s when we’re deficient that problems pop up.
Things like depression, fatigue, back pain, headaches, and chronic illness are a few of the signs that your body may be low on Vitamin D.
No, you don’t need a beach vacation in January to solve the problem, although it couldn’t hurt.
Health Hack solution: If you’ve got a great multi vitamin, you may be getting that already, but I recommend checking the label since most give quite a bit less than that. If you’re short, grab a bottle of Vitamin D pills.
Get it done: Take a vitamin D supplement. In areas as far north of the equator as the U.S. you need 800-1200 IU’s a day for optimal body function.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this. If we want to not only survive winter but THRIVE, we have to cheat the system and hack our body into thinking that summer still exists, even in January. Stay social, keep moving and get enough vitamin D.