How to build your own strategy to prevent the winter blues

How to build your own strategy to prevent the winter blues

 

If you’re anything like me it’s probably already happened.

That dawning. That realisation. That feeling in the pit of your stomach.

It happened to me today.

I wandered from pot to pot in my garden, ‘dead heading’ and watering, desperately trying to prolong life in my summer containers for just… a few…. more weeks. 

I looked up at the tops of the trees. Their tell-tale shades of copper and golden brown spreading out, colour changing by a few leaves every day.

Today is the day. That day in the year when I have to reluctantly accept that summer is over and, no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop autumn, with winter hot on it’s heels, taking hold. 

In my head I’m like a wailing, tantruming toddler ‘But I don’t wanna say goodbye to summer!! Wahhhh!!’

Have you had your day yet?

Most people don’t exactly love the end of summer. For some it marks the end of hot, sunny days. An end to the spontaneity of BBQ’s and picnics. An end to that period of lazy, hazy, carefree days. 

For me, living in Scotland, it usually brings on feelings of being cheated yet again! Another year of being cheated out of the opportunity for a half decent spell of weather. September brings with it that feeling of ‘So that was it then, such as it was!?’ Don’t get me wrong, Scotland is beautiful. But hot and sunny summers? Nope!

From where I stand, as it may be for you, the transition from summer to autumn is more about coping with the rapid loss of light. The knowledge that the days will soon be short and dull with long (16 - 17 hrs at it’s worst), dark nights. The cold I can deal with when it’s sunny, crisp and bright - I could survive in a ski resort no problem - it’s the relentlessly dull, dark, wet days, when the wind cuts you in half, that I find difficult to cope with.

Like many people, I definitely suffer from a touch of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Thankfully it doesn’t manifest into full blown depression but it’s enough that it can often affect my daily ability to function as well as I’d like to.

Despite my business being all about embracing the seasons from a home decor perspective, even I know I need a strategy and a well defined plan to mentally support me through the winter so that I can reach spring in one piece! 

With a career background in learning and development, it never ceases to amaze me how transferable those skills and principles are and how easily they can be applied to whatever I’m trying to achieve in life!

What follows here is a bit of fun but with a pretty serious upside. If, by doing this, you can wake up on March 1st thinking ‘That wasn’t so bad, in fact those were a fun few months!’ then what’s not to love!

Let’s look then at how we can apply some basic business principles to develop a strategy and subsequent personalised plan for surviving the next few months and preventing the 'winter blues'.

Our strategy will tell us what to do. 

Our plan will tell us how to do it.

Step 1 - Develop your Strategy

1. First define your objectives

As with any good strategy the first thing you need to do is to define your objectives.

You’re looking at the ‘big picture’ here. Imagine you’re ‘zooming out’ and looking at an overview of what you want to achieve. Later we’ll ‘zoom in’ and look at exactly how you’re going to achieve it.

What are your objectives?

You might want to consider things like -

‘To maintain and/or improve health over the winter months, avoiding communicable illness where possible’

‘To create a warm and cozy environment ahead of winter’

‘To maintain and/or increase activity levels and exercise through the winter months’

‘To actively seek, participate in and improve social engagement through the winter months’

‘To eat a healthy diet and increase the number of home cooked dinners’

‘To reduce stress in the lead up to and over the Christmas period’

You get the picture.

2. Next define the requirements

Think about what resources you'll need to get you there. What additional skills will you need? Who else will you need help from? How much will it cost?

In terms of our ideas for objectives as listed above you might need -

A flu shot? 

Multivitamins? 

Gym membership? 

New bathroom scales? 

Home decor accents? 

New winter walking boots? 

A slow cooker? 

A volunteer family member to cook once a week? 

A Christmas planner book?

 

3. Now identify the obstacles

Now you need to think about the things that might stop you achieving what you want and how you could overcome those challenges. 

Things to think about might be - 

You hate the gym.

You always forget to take your vitamins. 

You don’t have a big budget for home decor updates.

You don’t have time to cook every night. 

You have 12 extended family members already coming to you for Christmas - stress free? You’ve gotta be kidding!!

 

4. Let's consider the alternatives

What are some of the other ways you could meet your objectives? 

Try fitness classes this time? 

Batch cook at the weekend? 

Go out for Christmas Dinner? 

Buy a daily pill box and set reminders on your phone? 

Buy just one or two home decor items that could make the biggest impact?

 

5. Time to think about how will you measure success?

In the business world, being able to measure success is key. Think about what success will look like in each of your ‘preventing winter blues’ objectives. How would success feel for each one? How will you know you’ve succeeded? 

Some ideas might include - 

Planning to track your weight and your fitness levels. 

Still have access to last year’s diary/calendar? Plan to schedule more social get togethers than last year. 

Track your fruit and veg consumption - how did it compare to the recommended intake? 

How about tracking your mood (consider apps such as ‘Moodtrack Diary’). 

Step 2 Develop your plan

This step needs you to ‘zoom in’ on your strategy, examining each objective in turn, taking into account all of the requirements, the obstacles, the alternatives, how you’ll measure it and come up with a comprehensive plan. This is the nitty gritty detail, the 'to do' list of how you’ll get it done.

For example, your objective might be

‘To maintain and/or increase activity levels and exercise through the winter months’

 

You've considered that you might need to - 

Join a gym.

Recruit an exercise buddy (for company and accountability).

Buy some new winter friendly exercise clothes.

Find out about other local resources - walking groups etc.

 

You might have noted that you need to take into account that you -

Hate the gym.

Travel a lot with work so can’t always commit to a weekly class.

Could buy some exercise DVDs or find great youtube videos.

Love hill walking if the weather is suitable.

 

Your plan then might look something like this -

1. Contact 3 local gyms. Schedule visits/enquire if they have flexible classes. Can I try for free first?

2. Put out a Facebook shout out to friends for DVD/youtube exercise recommendations. Check them out. Place an order on Amazon.

3. Put a reminder in phone to check weekend weather forecast every Thursday. If weather suitable call a friend and schedule a weekend hill walk.

4. Diary a shopping trip to the outlet centre to pick up suitable exercise gear.

5. Check out the local area ‘what’s on’ guide for info on local walking groups.

6. Decide on suitable classes/groups and add to diary/calendar as an appointment to ensure they happen.

7. Record each time I exercise and keep a log.

See how it works?

 

Have some fun with it! Add something completely different into your objectives. Learn something new - take an evening class in mandarin!

You never know - you might wake up on 1st March fit as a butchers dog, with a freezer full of healthy meals and be fully accomplished in a brand new skill. More to the point you’ll be healthy, happy and full of the joys of spring!

We'd love to hear your ideas -

What would be top of your 'prevent winter blues' strategic objectives?

What do you struggle with during the winter months?

What's worked for you in the past to combat SAD? 

Please leave your comments below! 

 

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