Researcher Ramblings: Why the Sun Matters!

It’s 15.46. The lights are on. I sit at my office table looking at my ToDo list.

Is this going to be one of those monologues like ‘I’m stuck in this abyss and I’m documenting it so someone knows how my last hours were spent’? Probably! Winter blues are best highlighted through a narration such as this! Let’s make it even more interesting. Let’s assume that while regular ‘me’ me is writing this blog, some of the things I’m saying is actually being said by my alter egos: ‘Angel me’ (AM) and ‘Devil me’ (DM).

Its 6.30. I wake up all fresh, well slept!
DM: Wait…why is it still dark?
AM: Get out before you get all slouchy!
DM: Urgh…Can’t hear a sound. No one is up…not in my house, not the neighbours, not even the baby upstairs seems to be making a sound. Ok…let me go back to sleep. Nope. Where’s my cuddly dragon soft toy?
(Yes yes I have a dragon soft toy. You wouldn’t laugh so much if you saw how cuddly it was!). The good thing about my dragon, the eyes are painted open. Dragon is up.

Its 7.30. Tossing and turning in bed took its toll. I’ve now gone from ‘woken up fresh’ to ‘woken up tired’. Maybe I should exercise. Oh how I love exercising in the morning…dancing to some good music. Lets remove my socks….aaaaaaaaaa! COLD. STUPID. FLOOR.
AM: Ok…start dancing. Body heat will do it. You know yesterday, when you did the whole exercise video for 25 mins? You couldn’t feel the cold any more!

Its 7.35. I give up.
DM: The floor is toooo cold! And I’m too ‘meh’ to put on shoes or anti friction socks! I like my woollies!
AM: I’ll just go shower, have breakfast, read breakfast articles. Anyways its getting bright, even though I can’t see the sun! Yaaayyyy….. My housemates are waking up!

Its 8.45. Oh I can finally see the sun. Time to leave for work!

Its 9.00. I’m all dressed. I realize my face has lost its summer tan. So pale! Maybe I need some make-up? Oh well, a walk in this cold should at least make me red, if nothing else. Here come the winter rituals – 1. Socks, more socks, shoes. 2. Sweater, scarf, jacket. 3. Cap and gloves! Now only if I can walk to my tram without slipping on any of the black ice!

Its 10.00. Such a lovely day! La la la la…reply mails, climb up the two floors to my meetings, and down again. Such great exercise! Ignore the grey outside! Looking forward to a morning in the windowless lab? Yesss!!!! Monotonous routine work that does not need my mind to function? Oh yessss!!!

It’s 11.30. Almost done with morning work. Can sense the fatigue crawl in.
AM: Fatigue? What fatigue? You’ve slept, eaten, even had caffeine. Bet you don’t need half as much coffee in summer!

13.30. Had lunch. Totally tired now. Coffee ain’t doing much.
AM: Knew I should have gotten right out of bed, and had my exercise time!
DM: Whaattt…but it was still dark! Come on! Just go on facebook, see some blogs, you’ll wake up.

It’s 15.30. The lights are on. I sit at my office table looking at my ToDo list. Meh. Oh I should totally reply to e-mails. I go to my mailbox. Meh. Maybe I should take a fresh walk and come back. Meh…need to dress in so many layers. And my cap keeps falling off! How annoying! I look out the window. White building, grey sky, no sunshine.
AM: Oh forget it…I should write my blog. A blog about how work suffers in winter. Or simply about how sleepy I am.
DM.: Maybe I should get a coffee.
AM: No! Open Blogger!

So yea, if you’re a researcher in Europe, spending more time trying to work, than actually working, don’t worry! You’re not alone.

I should highlight though, this shouldn’t be, and isn’t, like this throughout winter. It’s nice, even motivational, when its snowing (at least for me). Specially if you have a well-placed workspace and can enjoy the beautiful white outside while you work serenely in the warmth inside. And the cold is not at all a problem if its Christmas time and cities are all colourful, with the added advantage of Christmas markets in Europe! The worst days are probably like the one described here, where its just been cold for many days, the beautiful snow has turned to black ice, and there just hasn’t been enough sunshine! Then, winter depression is real!

There are some easy tricks to fight it though. Winter blues like these go away the moment, and I mean the very instant, the sun starts to shine! So the tricks involve just maintaining the balance you would have had, had the weather been otherwise. Listen to what Angel me, i.e. AM, was saying! 😛
1. Wake up when you’ve had enough sleep. Turn on the lights in your room immediately (preferably lights that mimic sunlight).
2. Continuing exercising can go a long long way. A lot of people find snow sports rewarding, and practice these multiple times a week. Others, like me, find something enjoyable to do indoor, and continue with this.
3. Keep your metabolism working. It’s tempting to eat warming fattening food. This is totally fine! You need that extra fat! But just make sure its not food that causes lethargy. If you want to have a big portion of potatoes, go for it! Just add some lime and chilly to boost your metabolism as well!
4. Meet people! There are some things bitching does make better! The weather, is one of them!

Here’s some additional work advice – Its ok…cut yourself some slack. A few days lost would be fine! And chances are, a lot of people in your office are going through the same. Some mutual respect and understanding will get everyone through winter! 🙂

P.S. – Even though this post was written on a gloomy, grey day, it was finally published on a sunny day 😛 Just to highlight the importance of sunshine a little more!

To hear me talk about random things in a researcher’s brain, check out the ‘Researcher Rambling’ series: 
Science as its Biggest Stakeholder – a fact we often forget.
Researcher Like Thinking – How this profession has changed my thinking.

To know more about my life as a researcher, check out my previous posts 🙂
Work v/s Vacation – how work life balance can lead to a deeper imbalance!
Supervising – insights into the supervision process, from both sides.
The Storm – a special, overwhelming period in researchers’ life
The Wait – preceding every storm
“I had Fun” – Why this line is so special to cognitive scientists.
Monday Morning Blues – A researcher’s Monday morning blues come on any day! 😉
50 Shades of Research – Everything you will have to do…and more!
I have the…Moves? – Why this blog?

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