With winter around the corner and Covid-19 restrictions increasing in many places, if you want to feel as productive and calm as possible this season, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your mindset strong. In fact, I consider mindset Productivity Table Stake number one. If you can hold onto a positive outlook, you can more easily maintain your commitment to the intentions you have set for yourself. If you lose positivity, you may find yourself spiraling in a negative direction.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your mindset strong even though the weather and the crisis we find ourselves in might be pulling you down.
Fight the effects of low light
According to the Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH), severe Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects up to 15% of people, with 2-3% suffering severe symptoms. You might know it as the “Winter Blues”. SAD can cause depression, lethargy, and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). It also contributes to weight gain as we look for alternative sources of serotonin to boost our mood…which may explain the search for sourdough in the absence of sunlight. It’s more common in adults than kids, though starts to wane after age 50 (yay!), and it affects women a whopping 9 times more than men.
I’ve been looking for strategies to counter the effects since my 20’s and since my number one plan of travelling to a sunny spot is foiled this year, I am committing to something that has helped me immensely over the past few years: light therapy. My exploration of light therapy actually began in late 1994. I returned to Toronto after almost a year of travel around the world, predominantly in sun-filled locations like Hawaii, Australia, South-East Asia, and India. November in Toronto is traditionally gloomy and grey. The leaves have fallen and there is not yet snow on the ground to brighten up the landscape, nor the sparkly lights of the coming festive season. Downtown especially, the ground blends with the stone buildings which soar upwards to mix with the bland sky. Finding myself in a new job (which admittedly was not right for me), I found my energy depleting and began looking for strategies to help. I tried relaxation therapy, which felt quite good but did not really bring back my mojo, and then stumbled upon a University of Toronto study for light therapy.
I brought home a rather large light fixture and for two weeks, every morning at 6:30 am, before heading downtown to the office, I sat in my dark dining room under a wide fluorescent bulb dosing on full-spectrum light for half an hour. It was uncomfortably bright given the contrast in the room and you couldn’t really do anything else but sit there.
Fast forward to today, and not only has light therapy has now been proven as a successful remedy to counter SAD and the Winter Blues, but it is also much easier to integrate into your life. Please note though that it is a therapy and as such you will want to discuss it with your health professional. There are conditions that do not benefit from dosing in extra light such as bipolar disorder and skin or eye sensitivities. The Mayo Clinic has a helpful article on considerations.
For several years I have used light therapy lamps from Verilux. My current model is a slim, LED, full-spectrum light that doses 10,000 lux in half an hour if you’re sitting within 24 inches of the lamp. It fits in about the size of a postcard and now that the lamp is an LED, it packs flat and is sturdy enough to travel well so you easily take it with you.
Place the light to the side and sit within 24 inches of the light. You are not meant to look directly into the light. Controls offer the ability to dim the light to a more comfortable intensity and color, but be aware you may need to spend longer time bathing to have the same results. Experiment with the settings to find the most comfortable practice for you. The dimmer the light, the longer you might need it to be on. A timer has been included in the latest model to help you manage your dosing.
I used to want to crawl into bed around 6:30 pm every night when I got home from work. The lamp made such a difference to my energy level that I was able to travel to the gym for an evening yoga class.
In addition to a light lamp, I encourage fitting in daylight walks and seeking out brighter places to sit when indoors. Poorly lit basement offices may indeed be bringing you down.
Reduce known stressors – Hold onto peace of mind with protection from identity theft
With so much to worry about already, it’s important to act where we can. Statscan says 42% of Canadians report at least one cyber-security incident since the start of the pandemic1, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre tallies the financial impact of fraud year-to-date in Canada to be over $67 million.2 Canadians are not only spending more time online, they are doing a wider variety of things there. In June 2020, the Canadian government urged Canadians to take action to be more secure. According to new research, while about 90% of Canadians think internet safety is an issue, only 18% are doing something about it.3
Telus Online Security has partnered with Norton Lifelock to bring Canadians a suite of new tools to help prevent cybersecurity issues, in a multi-layered approach. Tools include device protection, the provisioning of a virtual private network (VPN) which lets you drive on your own highway so-to-speak making sure transactions are safe even if you’re on public wi-fi. Identity theft protection is what caught my eye as I recently found fraud on my credit card. Not only is your credit monitored, but additional support is also available from a Restoration Agent to help you problem-solve if you do get attacked. They can help you and even take over phone calls to sort out the mess freeing up your time to do other things.
There are a variety of levels of service from $6 per month (for device protection) through $30 per month for greater protections and a larger number of devices (pricing as at November 2020). It is important to note that this service does not guarantee protection, rather it offers multiple tools to mitigate the very real threats. It is one simple step you can take to reduce worry and preserve mindset.
Use colour to boost your energy, and the energy of those around you
Have you noticed different colours affect your mood? Science shows that colour can affect performance in a variety of ways:
- Taking a test after seeing red can improve accuracy, while blue boosts creativity.4
- Pills of warm colours had a stimulating effect. Cool colours had a relaxing influence. 5
Tip 1 – Bring colour into your environment
I painted my wall pink last year and it gives me a lift every time I see it. It seems to be a hit with others as well since March when all my segments and presentations went virtual. I’ve even got clients because of it. Bathe in your favourite colour.
Tip 2 – Bring colour into your wardrobe
I realized over ten years ago that when I wore bold colours that suited me, they seemed to have a positive effect on the people around me. This coincided with the start of regular television appearances. Take a look at a tv audience sometime and you’ll notice the producers will invite people with solid, bold colours to fill the frame for they are compelling on camera.
The powerful side effect of wearing distinct colours that suit you is that it makes you memorable. See how beautifully a client of mine, ghostwriter, and mental health speaker Cindy Tschosik, does it in her richly coloured magenta top. Cindy is getting loads of compliments on her bold purple wall.
And your accessories…
One day last year I stumbled upon a store from Australian-based Dresden Vision in Toronto, one of a handful of physical stores in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Don’t worry, they have International shopping online. The colourful window display instantly made me curious. I went in and bought four pairs on the spot. Why? They make very affordable frames (from $59 for simple prescription lenses) and arms variety of colours…which can be mixed and matched! I was over-the-top excited. Prices are kept down because they offer one widely flattering style of frame in four sizes. With 16 standard colours plus occasional limited and blended colour editions, you can coordinate with any outfit. They also have the lens cutting machine and an optician right in the store making same day availability a possibility. No hiding behind white lab coats and sending glasses away.
Parents, these glasses are incredibly sturdy and come with a lifetime warranty making them an excellent solution for kids. Note – I have quite a small head and wear the XS frames for my glasses and a S frame for my sunglasses.
Dresden Vision kindly provided me with a few more colours and frames to play with. So appreciated because it seems these days I need a pair in every room!
- Statistics Canada, “Canadians spend more money and time online during pandemic and over two-fifths report a cyber incident,”
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
- Angus Reid report commissioned by TELUS
- Colour and performance
Mehta R, Zhu RJ. Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Science. 2009 Feb 27;323(5918):1226-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1169144. Epub 2009 Feb 5. PMID: 19197022.
- Effect of colour of drugs
de Craen AJ, Roos PJ, de Vries AL, Kleijnen J. Effect of colour of drugs: systematic review of perceived effect of drugs and of their effectiveness. BMJ. 1996;313(7072):1624-1626. doi:10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1624
If you or someone you know is struggling to feel calm and productive working from home, please check out the free resources and online program I created for you here.
I also have a few spots open for private group coaching for individuals and leaders. I invite you to book a call with me to find out more.