“Winter is coming” isn’t just an ominous warning for the Starks on Game of Thrones. For people who struggle with the winter blues, it also heralds a season that they don’t really (or really don’t) look forward to. But these mood swings don’t only occur in the winter. Some people actually struggle more during fall, spring or summer. It’s normal for your mood to fluctuate during the year, but why does it happen and how can you support other people through it?
We’re seizing this opportunity to point out that supporting your employees with their mental health is something you should be doing all year round. We’ll explain how moods change throughout the seasons and how you can help your employees to get the most out of each season.
Fall: Slowing down and a period of rest
While some people enthusiastically post Instagram photos of their first pumpkin spice latte of the season, others aren’t so fond of fall. The arrival of fall marks the end of the sunny season, full of trips to the beach, drinks on the terrace, lazing around in the garden, festivals and vacations. Also, a lot of people start gearing up for the winter season in fall, a time of year some associate with the blues.
At the same time, fall is a season where you hit the brakes, turn inwards and relax.
Here’s how to support employees with the fall blues
Looking ahead to the winter season can be a subtle cause of distress for employees. Acknowledge that this is a thing and make it known that it’s normal for people to be feeling a little under par.
You can do this internally by communicating through email or the intranet, for example. Highlight how people can get the most out of the fall: by getting cozy at home, spending more time on self-reflection and hobbies, taking up meditation again, you name it.
In addition, you can do the following:
- Encourage employees to slow down. Take time for individual and group reflection.
- Fall is an excellent season to give employees time for “hobby projects”. Some employers will pick a day or afternoon in the week or month and reserve it for (work-related) hobby projects.
- Give employees extra breaks and encourage them to take a walk at lunchtime during the daylight. Exercising and daylight help combat unpleasant feelings.
- Encourage employees to practice mindfulness in order to become more resilient and get a better grip on their emotions. Top tip: During our mindfulness group sessions, employees can practice mindfulness every Tuesday and Thursday with a psychologist.
- In the fall, people have a tendency to eat less healthily. Make sure to offer varied and healthy lunches at work. Focus on the following ingredients in particular: eggs and mushrooms (for added vitamin D), oily fish (for healthy fatty acids), bananas (to boost happiness) and chocolate (also for happiness!).
Winter: The blues or a meaningful time?
The winter blues are world-famous. Our biological rhythm is disrupted because the shorter days cause us to produce more melatonin. This means we get tired more quickly, are irritable, and can’t concentrate as well.
In addition, we get less vitamin D because we aren’t getting as much sun on our skin. As a result, we feel sad and gloomier, don’t want to socialize as much, and tend to reach for unhealthy foods.
But as well as this, winter is an excellent time to take on meaningful projects. Because once December is out the way, there are fewer social distractions than in spring and summer, says psychologist Ida. “As well as meaningful projects, this period is perfectly suited for promoting quality connections amongst smaller groups.”
How to support your employees during the winter
Most of your employees will probably be familiar with the concept of the winter blues. This means you’ll mainly need to focus on giving out the correct information and support so that they can take care of themselves during the darker months.
- Recommend that employees get to work early and travel through the open air (for example, walking or cycling). In the morning, there is actually a lot of “blue” light, which reduces the production of melatonin.
- Bring a big pot of vitamin D supplements to the office.
- Make sure there is plenty of daylight in workspaces. Daylight lamps might help here.
- Offer extra breaks so that employees can take a walk outside during the day. Allow employees to pick their moment so they can get outside when the sun eventually decides to make an appearance.
- Give employees access to OpenUp. Just one consultation with a licensed psychologist can be a massive boost. Getting in contact with our psychologists is easy and approachable.
- Encourage your employees to develop a morning routine and give examples of what to include in it. A routine will help combat that gloomy feeling you get when your alarm goes off and it’s still dark outside. For example, a morning routine might consist of an online yoga session (or stretching session), writing down your daily intentions or things you’re grateful for in a journal, or taking some extra time to eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast. Make this extra fun by forming small groups and trying out a new habit or routine each week.
- Stock up on decaf so that employees who are struggling with a disrupted sleeping pattern during the winter can opt for decaffeinated coffee.
- Give your organization the book “Wintering” as a gift. This book explores the idea of winter as a time of rest and retreat.
Spring: The season of new starts
People who struggle with the winter blues often feel better once spring arrives and the sun starts showing up a little more often. The days are getting longer, there’s sunshine on your skin again and you can get out and about more. The fact that spring cleaning is a “thing” shows that this is the perfect time for a fresh start.
Here’s how you can make the most of it:
- Since society is hitting the “reset button”, this is the perfect season for feedback interviews, strategy sessions and setting new goals, both as an individual and as a team. So, encourage this.
- Devote some extra attention to organizing inclusive social activities, so that the organization can slowly start coming together again in larger groups.
- Freshen up the workplace: organize a group spring clean and breathe new life into the joint (with plants, for example).
However, don’t forget people who are still struggling with the winter blues:
- Our supply of vitamin D is at its lowest in early spring because we’ve used it up over the winter. Therefore, make sure there is still a pot of vitamin D supplements lying around.
- Spring can cause social anxieties or the “fear of missing out”: we start to notice that people around us are doing more social things and feel that we should be doing that too. This is why you should encourage team activities in the spring.
Summer: Sun’s out, fun’s out!
Most of us feel the best about ourselves during the summer. We often eat more healthily (more fruit and lighter meals), the sun shines on our skin and the daylight makes us happy. During the summer months, we produce more serotonin: the substance that puts us in a good mood.
How you can make the most of this:
- Since people are often at their most energetic during the summer, it’s the perfect season for corporate events.
- In the summer months, focus on company-wide connections by getting together in larger groups.
- Another thing that makes summer great: workloads are lighter in many sectors. This means that there’s time and space to develop the new strategies that you formulated during the spring.
- We also like to offer the example of Dutch company Paperdork that allows its employees to finish three hours earlier every day during the quiet summer period.
- Do you think that’s a step too far? Then you can also fill the quiet hours by trying out new, innovative ideas.
- Organize an educational summer camp where employees can learn new out-of-the-box skills.
But there’s also such a thing as the summer blues. There hasn’t been much research into the cause, but there is a range of theories. The most significant is that our biological rhythm is disrupted by the long days and we may suffer from insomnia. Also heat, the absence of routine, body insecurities, and feelings of loneliness while the whole world seems to be out having fun are possible causes.
How to support your employees during the summer
The summer blues might make people feel irritable, restless or anxious. It also causes weight loss, insomnia and reduced appetite. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Recognize that the summer blues exists and that it can be a challenge for people.
- Organize inclusive social activities to offset feelings of loneliness.
- Encourage people to get plenty of exercise, especially outside. Recommend that employees get at least fifteen minutes of sun on their arms and head each day for plenty of vitamin D.
If you know what the biggest challenges are each season, you can support your employees throughout the year in the appropriate manner. For those who could use a little extra support managing their thoughts and feelings, OpenUp is always here to help.