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Feeling Blue?

Making the most of your office space.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the December 1998 issue of Subscribe »

It's that time of year again. With winter about to dawn, for millions of Americans, 'tis the season for the malady known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Also known as winter depression, SAD causes both emotional and physical distress and can negatively impact work productivity and personal relationships. Despite their best efforts to create a healthy home office environment, SAD sufferers often find themselves unable to function at full capacity as they battle symptoms that include loss of energy, anxiety, lack of concentration, poor sleep, increased appetite and, yes, even sadness.

Can a change in seasons actually affect your mood? According to studies conducted since 1984 by the National Institute of Mental Health, it absolutely can, due to changes in brain chemistry that occur with the onset of fall and shorter days consisting of less sunlight.

Fortunately, SAD is relatively easy to treat, says psychologist Pat Hudson. While antidepressant medication is sometimes prescribed, the most prevalent treatment remains light therapy, which uses desktop light boxes the size of small TVs that emit 10 to 20 times the light intensity of standard indoor lighting. The therapeutic bath of artificial light stimulates chemical changes in your brain--and helps alleviate SAD symptoms.

"Light therapy only takes half an hour a day, and you should notice a difference in about a week," says Hudson. "It's very convenient, particularly if you have a home office; you can sit right there at the computer and keep working." Similar technology is available in a light visor worn on the head.

For milder cases of SAD, dawn simulators offer a relatively inexpensive alternative. Consisting of an alarm clock that features a light on top, the light switches on and gradually glows brighter in the final hour before the user awakens.

Increasing in popularity, at-home negative ion therapy also appears to increase energy levels and reduce depression in some SAD sufferers. If you suspect you have SAD, consult a qualified health-care professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Back In Action

Because slouching at your computer tends to prevail over good posture--and you've got the backaches to prove it--it's high time you reviewed your options. The good news is, it's easy to avoid spinal discomfort with the help of just a few ergonomic aids. Consider the following:

  • For a simple, no-fuss solution, call on Nada-Chair. The Nada-Chair Back-Up gently tilts your pelvis forward, and features cushioned straps that loop around your knees and keep your back in an upright position. It's available in a variety of colors, and one size fits all. Price: $49.95. For more information or to order, call Nada-Chair at (800) 722-2587.
  • From Relax The Back Corp. comes the Ergo Desk. An ergonomic secret among draftspeople and artists for years, Ergo Desk's slanted surface reduces neck, upper back and shoulder tension by encouraging an upright posture as you read or write. The desk's built-in reading stand supports even large books and folds out of sight when it's not in use. Price: starts at $119.
  • Relax The Back also claims to be able to reduce back pressure with its adjustable Ergo Footrest product. Its platform tilts to elevate your knees higher than your hips and has a gentle rocking motion that stimulates circulation and relieves back pain. The height adjusts from 23¦4 inches to 6 inches. Price: $40. Visit for more information on the Ergo Desk, Ergo Footrest and other ergonomic products.

Every Which Way

When it's time to redefine your professional space, consider KI's Flexible Workspace. Thanks to interchangeable fabric and glass panels, the Flexible Workspace offers easy installation and quick reconfiguration--a perfect setup for entrepreneurs whose complex needs vary from project to project, or who plan to hire an employee at home.

Suitable for multi-computer workstations, the system's plug-and-play Power Tower can not only be moved and reconnected without an electrician, but can also accommodate multiple data and communication lines. The work surfaces, which offer a sense of spaciousness with an ergonomic attitude (think curvilinear, wrist-friendly edge profiles), are height-adjustable. Call KI at (800) 424-2432 for more information.

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