Thursday, 31 January 2019

Simple solutions for helping to beat the winter blues

There are not many of us that look forward to the winter. Let’s face it, it’s just not as much fun as the summer!

It’s dark when we wake up and dark again by teatime. This lack of sunshine can be quite draining. People often report a heightened desire to stay indoors during the winter months, especially after the excitement and activity of the Christmas season is well and truly behind us.

For most of us, winter is an inconvenience – a season that must pass in order for spring and summer to return. However, for a small number of us the winter blues actually manifest themselves as a seasonal depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a depressive illness caused by a lack of natural sunlight. Approximately 20% of people in the UK experience some SAD symptoms, while another 8% suffer more seriously to the point that it affects their daily lives.

Not everyone who experiences SAD will present with the same symptoms – you can have a look at this Psychology Today article to see what the symptoms may be. Many people feel less energetic and more lethargic, needing more sleep than usual. They may also find it hard to get enjoyment out of everyday tasks and activities in that way that they would during the summer months.

There are a number of things that everyone can try in order to lift the blues and make the winter months more bearable. Put simply, it’s about spending time outside whenever you can and maximising the amount of natural light you are exposed to on a daily basis.

However awful the weather outside, a short daily walk will really help put a spring in your step. Exercise and activity get the endorphins flowing which help you to feel good. Getting out and about maximises the amount of natural sunlight our bodies are exposed to as well, which really helps to minimise the SAD symptoms you’ll experience.

If getting outside proves difficult, then it’s advisable to do whatever you can to keep work and home environments clutter free, light and airy. Sit next to windows whenever possible and – if it’s not too cold – try and get some fresh air through an open window.

Diet also has a role to play in keeping our mood on an even keel over the winter. While stodgy foods, like pies and stews might seem like a good idea to keep up warm and nourished, in truth they can sometimes add to our lethargy and lack of energy. What your body really needs to keep the SAD symptoms at bay, is food that is rich in vitamins C and D and zinc (such as spinach, citrus fruit and fish).

For more tips on how to improve your mood over the winter, why not read one of our previous blog posts. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

How to reconnect as a couple

Relationships are be hard work. They’re something we have to work on every day if they're to survive the highs and lows that life will undoubtedly throw our way.

In a previous post, we took a look at some common relationship difficulties and it is unsurprising that many of us will have experienced at least one of these over the Christmas holiday break.

It a full-on season, with lots of socialising and present buying, not to mention the expectation that everyone should be happy and jolly all the time. However, for many couples these holiday rituals bring money and time pressures that we don’t experience the rest of the year. This can put a strain on relationships that we often need to repair during January.

We’ve come up with a few quick and simple relationship tips, designed to help you reconnect with each other after the Christmas break and enrich the time you spend together as a couple.

Make it a habit

Relationships thrive on routines. After all the extra-curricular and unplanned activities of Christmas it’s time to carve some time aside for couple rituals that you can both look forward to. We’re not talking hours of time either, even something as simple as a ten-minute planned morning tea break together where you share your plans for the day is enough to rebuild and repair the bond you have together. Whatever you do, make it a regular occurrence and give it the attention it deserves.

Date night

Most couples swear by date night. It’s the one time in the week when it’s OK to focus solely on each other. Date night is usually high-jacked during December in favour of the need to socialise with a wider group of friends, family and work colleagues. Make it a priority to reinstate it as soon as you can in January. Don’t forget, date night needn’t be expensive or lavish – we're often cash strapped in January after all. It can be as simple as watching a movie together with a bag of popcorn, taking a walk together, or spending time reminiscing over old photo albums. What’s important is that you are together.

A problem shared

January is a time for making resolutions. You’re both more likely to stick to a shared resolution, than an individual resolution and it’s also the perfect excuse to work together as a team. Whether it’s become fitter, eating more healthily or learning a new hobby / skill, why not set yourselves a shared resolution? It will not only bring your closer together as a couple, but also give you a shared interest and goal.

This article from Psychology Today has some interesting ideas to get your started. Why not have a look and see which of these thirty-second activities you could try too?

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Why you need to look back before looking forwards

This time of year - a few days into a fresh new year - is a time when our attention often focuses on our resolutions for the next twelve months. They usually centre on the things we’d like to change in our lives – eat less, exercise more, or stop smoking… This year, we’re challenging you to think a bit differently.

Rather than empty resolutions that bear no resemblance to where you have been, how far you have come, or where you want to go, we want you to spend some quality time reviewing what has happened to you over the course of the past twelve months – and use the insight you uncover to develop a meaningful plan for the year that lies ahead.

Ask yourself questions such as:

What parts of the year did I particularly enjoy?
When did I feel challenged?
When did I feel overwhelmed?

By looking constructively, you can plan yourself a year that fulfils you and gives you the stretch you need to grow. We wouldn’t think twice about taking the time to reflect after we’d completed a big project at work – yet we seldom give our own personal reflection the same attention.

Reflection helps us to assess how we’ve done things, what the result was, and whether we should carry on as-is or if there’s a need to change direction in order to achieve what we really want.

You can choose which areas of your life you want to reflect on – it could be time for a general stock take, or a time to look at a particular aspect of your life that you have already identified deserves more attention in the coming year. Family, relationships, work, learning are all good starting points for your reflective practice. There will be some areas of overlap – it can be difficult to get more family time, if your job is particularly demanding, for example, but always start by thinking about the year that has passed.

Be honest in your assessment and evaluation of what went well and the areas that you would like to address going forward. Don’t just think about what was good – delve deeper to examine what it was that made it good. How did it make you feel? How can you recreate that feeling?

Once we have identified the high points – and the low points - this gives us a basis from which to develop a specific and focussed action plan. You can still call these resolutions if you want to!