Do the things that make you feel better.

This may be the trickiest post-Christmas period for many years. Usually, we talk about how difficult it can be to get back into the swing of things after the Christmas break, but there are always ways to overcome that initial slump. Some companies save their ‘Christmas’ parties until the New Year, and others use this time to re-evaluate goals and targets and to inject some positivity and action into their teams.

This year is different. This year, we’re recovering from the hammering that most businesses took in 2020. This year, we have gone pretty much straight from Christmas into a lockdown. The fact that many people predicted this would happen doesn’t make it any easier when it does. This year, the lockdown is accompanied by a scarier strain of the virus, bad weather and a fair amount of cynicism.

The importance of being optimistic

There’s a lot to be optimistic about, however. The roll out of vaccines means that we can start to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We are seeing lots of posts from friends about how relieved they are that elderly parents and relatives are starting to be vaccinated. Even though it may take a while to roll out completely, it’s a huge scientific success story, and a real symbol of what can be done when countries collaborate and finance is made immediately available.

We know that, if you’re sitting at home, on your own or juggling home schooling or caring for a vulnerable person, you might not feel very optimistic. You’re likely to feel physically and emotionally tired. That means you’ll find it hard to concentrate; your sleep might be suffering; you might have mood swings and you might find it difficult to motivate yourself. And then you switch on the news or your social media and you see that you’re about to hit ‘the saddest day of the year’ – Blue Monday.

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday falls on the third Monday of January. It was conceived by Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005, after he created a formula that looked at criteria including bad weather, dark nights, lack of money or post-Christmas debt and the falling away of initial enthusiasm about new year resolutions.

But this is just a formula – it’s not an instruction. We encourage everyone to stay as mentally optimistic as they can, even in really tough times. If you’re an employer, perhaps Blue Monday is a good day to check in on all your teams, giving some details of your plans, asking how they are doing and helping to keep morale high.

If you’re working from home, or are a key worker and finding it hard to keep going, here are some simple techniques that might help:

  • Get some exercise – you can exercise locally under lockdown. Take a new route, take pictures of the nature around you – you can do this even in the heart of the city – and look around you rather than down at your feet. If you can’t do this, just 10 minutes dancing in the kitchen or doing some stretches will help to take you out of the room for a while and focus on something else.
  • Have a non-work conversation – this might seem tricky when we’re all locked down, but perhaps all you need to do is give someone a call. Someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Or someone that you promised to call and haven’t. Or just someone you speak to regularly who you know can give you a bit of a boost.
  • Give back – again, difficult if money is tight, but perhaps this can be the day that you donate to the food bank, give some money to a homeless charity or decide to support something that’s close to your heart. Perhaps sign up for a virtual charity challenge to help focus your mind?
  • Be kind to yourself – we’re conditioned to feel that we’re not doing enough. That we should always be working and if we’re not working, we should be cleaning or organising or planning. In fact, what you need is some time for yourself. Do whatever makes you happy: watch TV; read a book; have a bath; play with the kids; do some gaming. Just take a bit of time out.
  • Think ahead – this will end. It’s pretty miserable now for many of us, but it will end. So why not make a list of the things you’d love to do when you’re able? It might be a hug with your parents; it might be a day at the beach; it might be a night out with your friends, or a long-awaited holiday. Making your list will make you feel much better and it gives you a sense of purpose.

Blue Monday is just a day. It comes and goes like any other day. This year, we have additional troubles to bear, but by looking out for each other, taking some time out, getting some fresh air and not piling pressure on ourselves, we can ensure that we can build our resilience and come out the other side with a better understanding of what’s really important to us.