How the British summer can put your head in the clouds

Steve Dinneen
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Look out of the window. Chances are, it is raining. Just like it was yesterday. The British summer is in full swing, once again failing to live up to its early promise of sunshine and blue skies. The Met Office warns the weather is likely to remain “unsettled” for at least the next month – anyone planning a holiday in the UK might want to reconsider.

But prolonged bouts of bad weather could mess up more than your vacation: it can also have an adverse affect on your working life.

“If the weather is sunny and bright, you tend to feel good. Conversely, if it is gloomy and grey, then you’re going to feel gloomier,” says Dan Roberts, a London-based cognitive therapist who specialises in treating conditions including anxiety and depression.

“This can definitely have an impact on your productivity, making you feel lethargic and unmotivated. Your cognitive functions can also suffer – people find it harder to make decisions and perform more complicated tasks to their full ability.”

Roberts says part of the problem is a lack of light. While short bursts of miserable weather won’t have as severe an effect as months of short days, it can trigger many of the same symptoms. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is not necessarily confined to the winter,” says Roberts.

Almost a quarter of people suffer some form of discomfort stemming from lack of sunlight, with seven per cent finding the symptoms “seriously debilitating”, according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA).

Symptoms can include anxiety, problems sleeping, irritability and a lack of concentration. You can also find your immune system affected, meaning you could end up taking more days off work and feeding a cycle where your productivity suffers.

“How badly you’re affected really depends on the individual,” says Roberts. “If you are more prone to depression then you will probably be more strongly affected by external factors like the weather.”

Simple ways to mitigate against the “rainy-day blues” include making sure your office is well lit, helping to counteract the lack of direct sunlight.

Getting exercise and eating right are also important factors in helping your body stay alert and focussed, as is making sure you drink enough water.

If you find yourself dreading rainy days, you can also try to trick your body into coping better with the situation.

“Part of the problem can be getting into the mindset that ‘the weather is bad, therefore I’m going to have a bad day’,” says Roberts.

“It is an area where positive thinking can have a real impact – if you can convince yourself that the weather doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a terrible day, then half the battle is won.”

If the Met Office is right, you should have plenty of time to perfect your cognitive techniques over the next month.