Q: It’s November and the short days and gloomy weather always get to me. In past years I’ve tended to see the worst in others and even behaved poorly to people as a result. How can I manage this better? — Lili, 50, sales representative
A: November is no joke! For those of us susceptible to the seasonal blues it can be really tough.
In fact, though I am neither doctor nor therapist, I encourage you to consider the possibility of Seasonal Affective Disorder and have a chat with a professional, if needed.
Apart from that, look at ways that you can manage your emotions and also control your behavior.
Emotions first. It is easy to fall into a slump when outside circumstances such as weather are pulling your energy down. Naps and chocolate look better and better, while fresh air and exercise lose their appeal.
The solution here is to find appealing things to do that will make you feel engaged.
Find reasons to laugh. Be creative. Learn something new. It’s all about bringing new spark to your mind.
Help other people. That’s a sure route to an emotional boost. Again, this can be in big or small ways. Look for volunteer opportunities. There are lots of easy ways to help, especially around the holidays.
Reframe your perspective, seeing the world as peacefully entering into dormancy in preparation for future growth. How does it feel to see November in that light?
And try getting a SAD lamp to bring healing light into your life.
Now consider your behavior toward colleagues, friends and family.
In some cases, we keep it together enough to get through the workdays, and then our families bear the brunt. If you’re doing this you’ll need to find ways to decompress before unleashing on them.
In particular, look at transitioning steps you can take, finding some quiet time, getting some exercise, etc., as you move into that phase of your day.
Take a careful look at your workplace interactions. What, specifically, do you want to change? Just saying, “I want to be nicer” is too vague.
Maybe you’re normally friendly and you become withdrawn. Without explanation, people may take that personally.
Instead, find a light way to own that behavior, perhaps joking about your social “hibernation period” this time of year.
If you get snippy, apologize to limit the damage. Then figure out your preventive steps. Can you feel a nasty comment coming on? Take a couple of deep breaths, excuse yourself to use the restroom — whatever it takes to keep your mouth shut. Practice finding constructive language to express what you need to say.
In all of this, be kind to yourself. When you fall short, apologize to others and forgive yourself. And try transparency — you’ll find you’re not the only person with the November blues!