Without fail, every year around the Daylight Savings Time change, the end-of-year doldrums creep in. Until the subsequent time change in March, we live in a sort of hibernation mode that has the potential to quash the creative energy we need to do our best work and help keep us thriving in the dark winter months. So how do we push through the busy year-end deadlines and stay stimulated, energized, and engaged through the dark days of fall and winter?
I swear by my “happy light.” It’s a lamp that works as a supplement to natural sunlight that offers me a serotonin boost during Ohio’s gray months. Fifteen minutes a day with the light on at my workspace, and swear I can feel a difference!
I listen to a lot of music while I work, and sometimes a silly 90s hip-hop sing-along or a James Brown dance break is what’s needed to be able to then focus on a project. Gotta get the sillies out, like I tell my kids!
Otherwise, I keep my creative brain going in the slower months with classes to learn new skills (swimming, art glass, Reiki). Creativity requires time for fun and exploration. I try to make time for nearby trips to new places. But when I can’t, I blast the Beach Boys and plan tropical vacations that I’ll never go on as I count down the days until spring.
I fight off the seasonal depression by working on my “gainz,” and searching for new moody folk music. I spend at least an hour or two at the gym every evening after work to move my body and burn calories. I find that sitting all day crouched down over my laptop puts me in a not-so-great mood and the dark skies at 5 p.m. don’t help at all!
Lately, I’ve been participating in spin classes and trying to hit new personal records when lifting. In addition, I joined a co-ed soccer team to further my soccer skills and interact with other people while being active. I find that keeping my evenings active helps me maintain my happiness and allows me to be more energetic and creative the following day when I’m working.
As much as it is hard to wake up while it’s dark outside, lately, I’ve been making an effort to go to the gym or squeeze in a walk outside before diving into the workday. It not only kicks off my day on a positive note but also adds productivity to my mornings. It also allows me to catch the sunrise and soak in some extra daylight, especially with it getting dark so early. I’m also in a volleyball league and it’s something active that I look forward to after sitting during the workday.
In the evenings, browsing Pinterest and reading fiction books is my creative fuel. Whether it’s unrelated to work or my career, they spark my imagination before bedtime.
As someone who thrives off social interaction (and works alone from home every evening), briefly chatting with family or friends is one of my favorite ways to remain energized and engaged as the sun starts to set.
Around the last hour of the day, I’ll occasionally hop on a Zoom call with my mom or a few friends who are also finishing up their workdays. While there isn’t a ton of conversation to be had (since we’re all still working), the small talk and occasional comments sure beat the silence of my apartment — wrapping up my day with a little fun while remaining productive!
…And not to steal from Melissa… but I second the importance of proper lighting! That’s why I’ve replaced all the lights around my workspace with dimmable, color-changing bulbs — allowing me to increase brightness as the sun sets and change the tint to the color most comfortable for my eyes.
I’m working to counteract all the time in front of the laptop with more analog activities. Reading real, physical books has always been part of that. I spent much of this year reading works by Raymond Carver, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, and Larry Brown—authors who inspired my favorite modern fiction writers.
Outside of reading, I try to keep creating—using my hands—just not within a digital design program. At the moment, that means home projects. We recently repainted the kitchen, and soon, I’ll take a shot at building a bench with storage for a spot near our living room fireplace. There will be no shortage of home projects to keep me occupied and looking at problems from a different angle. If only I could Command+Z the real-world screw-ups.
I’ve spent a lot of time living in Colorado, and while winter is definitely winter there, you still get these fantastic blue skies and massive amounts of sunlight. At the risk of stating the obvious, Ohio is a different story.
I’ve found the best way to combat the Midwest doom and gloom is to stay connected with others. When every fiber in my being is screaming to hibernate and dissociate with the world, meeting and spending time with family, friends, and colleagues is the absolute best medicine. If nothing else, you can commiserate on the crappy Midwest winters.
…and on select occasions when we do have blue skies, I go for a ride in the convertible – no matter the temperature.