Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder in 2020
Be diligent with movement: You might be tempted to just curl up and have a cozy night in…every day. But it’s in the winter times where we need to prioritize and be diligent with physical activity. If you’re cautious about going to public gyms and studios, then at-home yoga or playing games like RingFit on the Switch are good options too!
Keep a routine: Even if it’s hard to wake up, do your best to create a “normal workday” and stick with it. This is called behavioral activation, where you help your body be on a roll to gain momentum and kill sluggishness. A schedule that designates clear time slots for sleep, meals, exercise, and self-care can welcome a sense of familiarity in uncertain times. Make sure to schedule regular phone calls with loved ones too!
Remember, it’s a balancing act: Stay informed with the news, but be mindful of too much. Media is often triggering and we’re already carrying greater emotional baggage than usual. Keeping up with the always-changing public health advice, especially in physical lockdowns, comes at a cost to mental health.
What employers can offer
By now, it should be obvious that leaders ought not to turn a blind eye to this problem. Managers have a strong influence over employee happiness and wellbeing. It’s essential as an organization, especially on the direct manager level, to set the tone and implement initiatives that prevent or relieve SAD symptoms that employees are experiencing. Often this is addressed by building an inclusive work atmosphere and supportive management culture. Bolstering employee job satisfaction and helping them feel supported should be a priority too.
Be proactive: Even though it’s likely that employees aren’t going into the office, it’s worth holding a Zoom session or two about mental health resources available to them. When leaders initiate vulnerable conversations about mental health instead of the other way around, employees may feel more open to showing their struggles and talking about them.
Offer flexibility: Allowing employees to take control of their workday could effectively help with those who would benefit from enjoying more of that rare sunshine before or after work, or from being able to schedule a mid-day counselling session.This also means this season might be a good time to activate asynchronous communication.
Recognition of good work: Taking time to give a personal thank you or celebrate progress does tons to employee morale. We know how rewards and recognition actively relieves stress, increases self-esteem, and maximizes productivity. Show how much you value your teammates!
Encourage breaks: Do you find that you’re often stuck to your desk at home, taking much shorter breaks? According to the 2020 state of remote work report, 7% of remote work respondents report difficulty concentrating, and 18% reported that they were unable to unplug when they’re working from home. Actively encouraging your employees to take breaks or go for a walk is a healthy precaution to burnout and SAD.
While it’s the responsibility of individuals to seek treatment plans for their seasonal depression, a caring and empathetic employer should take measures to support employees through transitions and difficult times. Don’t be surprised if there’s an uptick of sick days in the upcoming months—a culture of understanding is where employees unite and grow together. Whether employees disclose their mental health issues or not, it’s helpful to be aware of potential threats to employee wellness, productivity, and happiness.