Winter Blues and the Anxiety of Unproductivity

Freya Dowson

It happens to me every winter and I'm working on strategies to deal with it, but this year I have been hit with the winter blues twice as hard. I'm a firm believer that life has it's seasons, but that doesn't mean I always accept it. I'm learning to understand that I can't work full steam ahead at all times - I'm not a machine! But not being as productive as I'd like is something that wakes me up in the middle of the night - it gives me the fear.

I have very specific ideas on what being productive and successful look like, and they do not look like taking a rest. Does this sound familiar? You're sitting in your pyjamas, knowing you have a list of stuff to do but you've been afraid to write out that list for days because there's just too much and putting it on paper will mean you have to find the energy somewhere to do it. But there is no energy, it's been a while since you had any and unless the sun comes out soon and you can open a window and get some fresh air without freezing, you're going to congeal into more of a useless lump than you've already become.

It's a struggle. My mood and my energy levels ebb and flow, which to me does not look like this image of the "girl boss" I have embedded in my brain - the one who works at her business morning, noon and night while also going to the gym and has a social life. I mean... how?! It's minus three outside!!

So I've settled on trying to accept where I am while gently trying to boost my mood and get my work done so the anxiety gives me a rest. Here's what I'm currently working on:

1. Settle in for some hibernation: if you think about it, human beings as mammals were designed to sleep when the sun goes down, and in the winter when there is no sun, we are probably meant to sleep a lot more.

Our screens trick our bodies into staying awake longer, but in reality we are meant to go to bed and wake up in the sun - which in the winter means we are meant to sleep a lot longer. I think forcing ourselves into a routine where we sleep for the same amount of time year round is unreasonable, so in the winter when you get tired easier and you want to sleep more - sleep more! 

For me this looks like going to bed earlier, with my electric blanket and hot water bottle, reaching optimum comfort levels and just giving in to sleep. Nothing comes from feeling guilty about not doing enough, even though I do, but I have to remind myself that rarely does anything good come from toughening up and forcing yourself to feel what you don't. Proof in point: I wrote this post two weeks ago and just could't press publish because I'd forced myself to write it and it was utter garbage.

I'll keep coming back to this but I firmly believe you need to give your body (and your heart) what it's asking for, and if you're exhausted - SLEEP! I'm up to about 10 hours a night right now and it feels pretty good.

2. Keep away from the phone: I'm going to talk about this one in the realistic voice of someone who is fully addicted to their phone.

Ok we all know we need to spend less time on our phone, but so far nothing has happened in my life to really push me to make serious change and cut down my phone time in any real way. 

But having said that, a little goes a long way when it comes to decreasing stress if you can try to gain a little control over your phone impulses. I reach for my phone when I'm feeling anxious, when I'm feeling insecure, or when I'm trying to numb something - I know this about myself and I know that nothing comes from ignoring that. I also know that I don't spend as much time on my phone when I'm happy.

It's become important to me over the last year or two to have a chat with myself and try to work out what is bothering me and why, I try to get to the bottom of that anxiety, insecurity, or numbness. Weirdly I tend to have these chats in the shower, my heart seems to open up better in water.

I measure my level of everyday happiness with how often I reach for my phone, and if I'm reaching for it constantly I need to get to the bottom of why (for example to numb that nagging image of how much of a "girl boss" I'm not being right now) - if I can do that and sort it out I'm already feeling A LOT better.

Giving yourself what you need, I find, helps you get to where you want to be a lot faster.

3. Do what makes you happy: over the past year or so I've worked to change my view on how to create my dream life, and I have to say that it has fundamentally changed everything for me.

I can go into that in more detail in another post, but for now I'll just say that I firmly believe that doing exactly what makes you happy is the key to everything.

I find that if I just work on doing what makes my heart happy then I'll always be moving towards more of what will make me happy, every step I take will be moving me towards my dream life. I find it easier now than I used to because I quit my job and went freelance to do something I love, but it wasn't so easy when I had a 9-5 and a commute. When I started following this "do what makes you happy" principle, I wasn't freelance and I wasn't living my version of a dream life, it was only through living this way that I got to where I am now.

But applying this idea to this post, I think that if you feel like flopping on the sofa and watching four hours of Friends, do it. If you feel like taking two naps in a day, do it. If you feel like avoiding all social engagements in favour of spending more time with your hot water bottle, do that! The more you can practice listening to what you want or need right now, and then acting on it, the more magic will come into your life. Promise.

Click "leave a comment" below and let me know if you have any strategies for coping with the winter blues.xx