Fall’s around the corner: How seasonal shifts impacts productivity (and how to cope)

While seasonal affective disorder is commonly discussed when the temperature drops below freezing, any shift in weather can cause you to feel off kilter. Especially when you transition from the relaxing, low key days of summer to the year-end planning meetings of autumn, you may struggle to find your rhythm. Career expert and author Caroline Vazzana says much like school children returning to the classroom, the ‘back to work’ attitude is in full force in September.

“It seems that all of the big projects pick back up in the fall and workload increases. This can result in a employees feeling overwhelmed and overworked,” she explains. To help you meet deadlines, reap a solid performance review and finish the quarter strong, here, experts give their best advice on how to remain productive:

Recognize that this is not a myth

Much like anything that puts a wrench in your routine, chief engagement and brand officer at EHE Joy Altimare says acceptance is the first step to pushing forward. Or in other words: understand that what you might be feeling is completely normal. And it’s backed by medicine. “Scientists know there are a lot of biological and physiological reasons our moods tend to change with the season, but one of the biggest factors in seasonal mood swings is light,” she explains. The scientific evidence determines the amount of daily vitamin D is the main seasonal variable that affects mood, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health.

How does this work? It’s all internal: “Our body’s circadian clock monitors the day length and tells us when to feel sleepy and when to wake up. It regulates other systems in our body, like hormone release, temperature regulation, metabolism, and mood,” she continues. “So when there’s less light during the day, some of those processes affected by the circadian clock, including ones that influence our mood, get disrupted. Therefore, when you feel a bit more sluggish during the fall and winter months, acknowledge that it is normal, seasonal effects.”

Make a list

When you’re still paying off that credit card bill from the beach vacation you took, packing up your swimsuits and battling allergies from foliage, remembering to return emails, prepare for meetings and other work tasks might fall to the wayside. Everyone has moments of feeling scattered-brained, but Vazzana says one way to collect your cognitive willpower is to make a list. The very act of ‘checking off’ an item—physically or digitally—will have you feel accomplished and empowered to tackle another one ASAP.

Adopt a balanced lifestyle

To live a long life — and thus have a robust career — Altimare says it’s important to pay attention to how you eat, think and move every single day. She believes the connection between these three dynamics ensures your happiness and your ability to perform to your best ability in (and out of) the office. “Get up and move every day. Daily movement, especially, during the fall/winter months, can be a big mood enhancer and positively impact stress,” she continues.

And with your diet? Altimare says it might be easy to eat comfort foods when it’s cool, try to balance the simple carbs, sugar-filled foods with fruits, veggies, proteins and complex-carbs and lots of water. “You’ll feel more energetic and the brain power you need to make good decisions at work and at home,” she adds.

Set goals — and celebrate

While you should set goals for yourself every quarter according to Vazzana, if you’re failing at focusing, there’s no better time to consider the future instead of getting lost in the present. Once you’ve determined where you hope to be by the time the first frost hits, you can decide how you’ll reward yourself for meeting your benchmarkers.

“If you do meet your goals, reward yourself with a new product you’ve been eyeing or a fun night out. It’s important to always celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments,” she explains.

Spend time with friends

True story: a belly laugh with your best friend can solve anything. Or a fulfilling date night with your partner. Altimare says when you’re struggling to focus at work, make sure your time out of the office eases your nerves and angst.

“Work out with your girlfriends, sign-up for a language class with a pal, or invite friends over to have a healthy potluck,” she explains. “I’ve found feeling like a belong and having a tribe I’m connected to with activities planned helps me stay productive, personally and professionally!”