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Staying Productive When All You Want to Do is Curl Up on the Couch

Readers had questions. I have answers.

After my last post on the winter blues, I heard from many people that said they don’t exactly have winter blues, but they do notice that at this time of year it is more difficult to stay motivated and get things done. And for more than a few, with everything going on in the US, it feels just that much harder.

Today, I wanted to share some of the specific questions I got, along with my suggestions for keeping your mood and energy levels up during the longer, darker, winter days. Remember, this isn’t just for people with winter depression, it’s for all of us who want to feel better and be more productive!

1. Are there things that can help with setting your circadian rhythm when you’re not going to sleep when it gets dark or waking as the sun rises?

Yes! One of my favorite things is the combination of the blue light box (GoLite) by Philips, and the Daylight alarm clock, also by Philips. I have links for those here but you can also just search them on Amazon.

2. I’ve heard that activity trackers can be helpful but they’re so expensive, do you have any other ideas that can help motivate me when I just want to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea instead of getting outside?

Regarding trackers, for the record, a recent study showed that as a rule they don’t actually help you lose weight or get more fit.

That said, I have personally had a great experience with wearing a tracker. When I first started wearing it, I was appalled at how sedentary I was on my work days so now I keep an eye on my steps and if by early evening I haven’t hit 10k steps (that’s my arbitrary personal minimum goal) I go out after dinner. If the weather is seriously beyond dreary or too icy I get on that mini-elliptical I recommended in my last post.

As for cost, there is one tracker, the Jawbone UP MOVE, that is being discontinued and is available on amazon for only $9.99. Not kidding! Also, if you have an iPhone and you are keeping it on you all the time, your steps will be tracked in your Health app already.

As for motivation I recommend finding someone who also wants accountability and either walk or exercise together or check in regularly. When I’m in a particularly bad spot I email a friend and agree to send $50 to an organization I hate if I don’t get off of my butt and go to the gym.

3. I’m feel like I’m tired all the time in the winter, no matter how much sleep I get. What can I do to increase my energy?

First of all, feeling tired can be a symptom of clinical depression so if you think this is a possibility, please go to your doctor to get screened. As for specifically what to do, first up is sleep. That means seven to eight hours for most people, and for some, it means eight to nine. If you have trouble sleeping it’s important to get help to figure out what the problem is, and fix it. Conditions that can negatively affect sleep include sleep apnea, thyroid issues, hormone imbalance, menopause, anxiety, depression, and more. This is something that I typically address in appointments with my clients and you can address with your own physician or health provider.

If you want some help working this out, please feel free to contact me. You can find information on my virtual consults here, and for local appointments (Portland, OR) see my office website.

Yours in health,



Staying Productive When All You Want to Do is Curl Up on the Couch

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