16th January marks ‘Blue Monday’, often held to be the most depressing working day of the year. As we return to the office with the weather cold and wet, the days at their shortest, and many of us cutting back after the excesses of the holidays, it’s not unusual to feel as though your energy levels and motivation are down while we wait for spring.
The Sussex Innovation community includes several companies that specialise in workplace wellbeing and mental health, so we asked a few of them for their advice on managing the January blues.
The following tips offer general information only – if you are suffering with chronic depression or recurrent negative thought patterns, refer to a mental health professional for specific advice. Contact our reception teams if you would like to talk with one of the trained mental health first aiders within the Sussex Innovation community, or visit the Mind website for a comprehensive list of helplines with trained professionals ready to talk.
Get Outside in Daylight
“My recommendation to help with feeling in a low mood is to get outside on a regular, daily basis,” says Ian Braid, MD of DOCIAsport. “This could mean taking a ’10 at 10′ – a ten minute break at 10am – or exercising for an hour in the afternoon. A change in environment can be a positive way of breaking up negative thoughts, and there’s also the benefit of being in natural light, so precious at this time of year. If at all possible leave all connectivity behind you when you do this, so that you are not ‘on call’.
“It has taken me a long time to realise the benefits of silence and just being in nature. I have had to learn the hard way, and have my dog Fred to thank for getting me out each morning. I know I have something within my gift to make a difference to how I feel. It’s important that I take care of myself, so I can give care to others.”
Build Reserves of Energy and Resilience
“Understanding why we feel low and raising our self-awareness is key,” says Lara Williams, co-founder of Momentum4. “Where is your energy on a scale from 1 to 10? If you’re at a 3 today, why? What’s one thing you can do that will get you to a 4 or 5? Write down three things that you know give you a boost, whether it’s exercising, seeing friends or listening to music. Make sure that these things are incorporated into your week ahead – schedule them into your diary. Try to notice the things that drain your energy too, like sitting in front of your laptop without taking a break.
“Be intentional and stay on track; what do you want to achieve today, or this week? Set achievable goals and celebrate each small win. Stay connected with the people you care about and make a note of three people who you’re going to reach out and chat with. Relationships help to keep us resilient. We believe that sustainable performance is a product of energy and resilience. If you’d like to know more about our REP model, contact me.”
Manage Your Expectations
“Blue Monday appears to arise after the manic preparations for the holiday season, which is all about family, eating, drinking, relaxing and having fun with friends – except when it’s not,” says Maria Paviour, founder of Wellbeing With Cari. “Like many people, my winter has been impacted by bereavement, and there are many other reasons why things may not be everything we would have dreamed. Our finances may look even more scary than they were before Christmas and New Year.
“My advice is to work with the season, not against it. This is winter, a time to rest and recuperate. I ask my staff to work only 50% of their usual hours during December, and only when the sun is up. I know that when we come back to work we need to be on our mettle, and the holiday season seems to drain, rather than recharge our batteries. If you’re feeling drained now, and this is manifesting as the blues, take some time off and get under the duvet. The world – and your business – won’t come to an end, believe me! Our blues are a direct response to the season, environment and our energy levels. Work with nature, listen to what your body and brain are telling you, and know that this too shall pass. The days will grow long, flowers will break through and your mood and state will change with the seasons. Be kind, patient and accepting with yourself; you will never regret taking time to be, to rest, and to spend time with your family.”