We all know working from home requires discipline. When I first joined Don’t Panic Mgmt, I thought that discipline pertained only to things like deadlines and time management. Boy, was I wrong.
During my first winter as a freelancer, New York City was buried in snow. I thought I had hit the jackpot—I had no daily commute and, on days when I didn’t have an audition, no reason to leave my house if I didn’t want to. But as the days got shorter, I felt myself grow gloomier, lonelier, and less productive. I may have been a self-disciplined employee, but when it came to my own wellness, I had a long way to go.
Since that first winter, I’ve built up a personal guidebook of winter wellness hacks that I use to stay happy, healthy, and productive in these cold-weather months.
Equip Your Space
Humidifiers: Do your lips and hands get chapped this time of year? Do you find yourself gasping for water throughout the day? Try a humidifier in your bedroom or office. Thanks to their recent rise in popularity, there’s a style for nearly every need or price range, from USB-powered desktop models to combination humidifier/oil diffusers that look like works of art.
Happy lamps: Light therapy lamps can do wonders for anyone feeling sun-deprived, not just those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. That being said, it’s always wise to check with a health professional before investing in a “happy lamp.” Some drug stores now carry small models for less than $50.
Rest your eyes: Remote work usually means computer work, and uninterrupted screen time can mean headaches, soreness, and decreased concentration. It’s a tough habit to break. Tools like eyeCare can help you remember to look up from your screen at regular intervals. If browser plugins aren’t your jam, create eye health routines in other ways: look away each time you finish a page, complete a task, or hear an ad on the radio.
Take a break using other senses: After a long day at my laptop, sometimes the thought of relaxing with Netflix or a book makes my eyeballs recoil. Enter my new love: podcasts! Using my ears instead of my eyes during my downtime feels more like genuine relaxation. Audiobooks, knitting, journaling, and (of course) snacking are also great ways to treat your other senses.
Citrus candles: Nothing brightens up a desolate winter like the scent of oranges or lemons. A cozy candle flame can do wonders for your mood and alertness if you don’t have the luxury of a fireplace—and if you do, invite me over?
Tea: If I could drink coffee from sun up to sun down, I would. But negative side effects kick in after the fourth cup, and for many people, much sooner. Switching to a rich herbal tea in the afternoon keeps me warm, focused, and un-jittery.
Recess: The winter wellness hack I recommend the most? Revisiting your elementary school days with a little mandatory outside playtime. As someone without pets to walk or kiddos to pick up, I’m prone to spending too much time indoors and away from the sun, which is why I started making time each day for a quick walk or bike ride (or a sledding adventure!). If you find yourself getting gloomy or stir-crazy, set an alarm for your own bit of recess.
Indoor exercise: Staying active doesn’t have to mean braving the elements. If you don’t have the luxury of a home gym or treadmill, get your flow on with a little yoga or pilates—or some high-intensity dancing.
Prepare for the Year Ahead
Plan for tax season: Whether you file your taxes yourself or with the help of an accountant, use these winter months to hunt down those expense receipts and gather your 1099s. As freelancers, we know just how stressful tax season can be. Head off those anxieties at the pass by prepping as much as possible before April hits.
Daydream: The winter months are a slow, introspective time for many. Embrace these long evenings by dreaming up plans and projects for the coming year. What’s been simmering on the backburner? What can you lay the groundwork for now that you can unleash in the spring and summer?
What can you put into practice today to make this winter season a time of wellness and renewal?
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Lee is a Brooklyn-based multi-hyphenate with a background in writing, design, media production, and the arts. Since 2014, he's been helping Don't Panic's clients launch books, start podcasts, design beautiful publications, and polish up their writing. Talk to him about Star Trek any time.
Work superpower: Finding the perfect word
Favorite cheese: Aged gouda
Go-to karaoke song: "Faith" - George Michael
Beverage of choice: Ginger beer
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