The holiday season is over, we may have already broken our New Year resolutions, our bank account is in the red, the weather is grey, and it seems ages until it’s light again in the mornings. So it’s not surprising that January 20th – Blue Monday – is considered to be the most depressing day of the year. However, instead of focusing on the negatives, January might be the best time to start being more kind to yourself.
Adrian Bethune, founder of Teachappy (an enterprise that specialises in wellness in the workplace), as well as being a bestselling author who recently presented about the Importance of Wellness at the Swim England Teachers Conference, says:
“Happier and less stressed teachers teach better, leading to happier and more productive pupils. Not all stress is bad but chronic stress can be extremely detrimental to our health and wellbeing.”
So how can we recognise when we are stressed and what can we do to manage it better?
Key indicators of stress can include:
Thankfully there are countless ways to boost your mood in January and solutions for managing stress long-term.
Take time to think about the good things in your life. Each day, consider what went well and try to list a few things that you are grateful for.
Go for a walk, a run, a swim! Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being. Physical activity additionally has some direct stress-busting benefits as it increases the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins.
Studies also show we burn up stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, when we exercise, which is another reason we feel better after being physically active.
Simple mindfulness practices will help you rewire negative biases you may have, as well as developing your ability to laugh more, reducing tensions and stresses along the way. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and can be practised whilst seated, walking or standing. Mindfulness involves paying attention to our thoughts and emotions in a way that increases our ability to manage a situation. Courses and apps sharing mindful tips, such as headspace, can be found online.
Research shows that just being in the company of supportive others reduces our stress levels. Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling. We often leave friendships too long without communication, and this can leave us feeling isolated and disconnected from the world.
If a job or an assignment seems overwhelming, try breaking it down into easier chunks, and give yourself credit for completing them one by one.
Make it your personal assignment to compliment friends, colleagues and those around you. This may sound a strange way to make you happy, but spreading happiness to others is often the best route to your own heart. From ‘I love your new handbag’ to ‘it’s great to see you this morning’. Share the love and the love will be returned.
Create a to-do list – if you know that you have a lot to do at work, then try to prepare in advance as much as possible, such as meal preparation or completing an assignment at home. Doing so will mean you have less to do and you’ll hopefully be less stressed at the idea of starting your working week.
At this time of year, it’s important to have things to look forward to (meals out, holidays, etc). So, even if money is tight, we could plan a holiday for later in the year, which helps us stay optimistic even if things are a bit bleak now.