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Beating the winter blues can be tough. Colder temps, shorter days, and the stress of the holidays can be overwhelming. In fact, it can be draining to the point that the last thing on anyone’s mind is being productive.

Navigating a winter slump takes more than an energy boost; it takes strategy and planning.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects millions of people every year. The symptoms of SAD can range from feeling down and listless to severe depression. Directly related to the lack of sunlight and serotonin, it’s not uncommon to feel “off.”

Combating the ill-effects of SAD starts with a routine. Create a pleasant morning routine that sets the tone for the day. Wake up a few minutes earlier and enjoy the silence while sipping coffee. Meditation in the early morning can also set the tone for a less stressful, productive day.

In addition, changing the layout of the workspace can do wonders to boost a low mood. Disorganization and chaotic workspaces can negatively impact someone’s mindset, so creating a workspace free of clutter helps to lift a low mood. Potted plants are also proven mood boosters and stress relievers.

Downtime

Even on the weekend, it’s a good idea to maintain the same schedule, at least very similar. Waking up at the same time helps stabilize the circadian rhythm. Take time to enjoy the slower pace of the weekend but still try to get dressed. In people suffering from SAD, it’s even more important to get dressed and do something that makes them feel productive. It can be as simple as loading the dishwasher or getting the laundry done.

Put Health First

Finally, eating a healthy diet can ward off the winter blues. When someone is feeling down, it’s natural to want to feel better. As such, reaching for high-fat foods is the last thing that should be done.

While the brain will process these as a reward, consuming foods that are high in fat and carbs slows down digestion, making someone feel even more sluggish than before. Fuel up on low-fat, nutritionally dense foods and make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

The winter-time blues can make just about anyone feel down; however, with a little strategic planning, it is possible to break the cycle.