January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, the month of a new year and a fresh start. Usually, this is a time which fills people with optimism, a chance to break old habits and create resolutions, with the promise of new possibilities.
This year, with majority of us in lockdown, I’ve noticed a sense of fatigue; lack of motivation and pessimism cloud us. Living through a global health crisis certainly takes a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. However, we will get through this: winter always turns into spring and with vaccinations in progress, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve put together some suggestions to help get you through the next few weeks till the vaccinations catch up, prevent burnout and bring the spring back in your step, regardless of the weather outside your window.
- Reduce your screen time: pick up a book instead
Since the start of the pandemic, my screen time has gone through the roof – spending a majority of the hours that I was awake glued to my laptop, phone or Netflix, made me feel consumed by technology. Excessive screen time can be detrimental to your health and a small change like making an effort to switch off during selected times and avoid social media for a few hours can improve your mood drastically. My colleague Caroline has compiled an interesting selection of books with our team’s recommendations here. Have a browse!
- Make gratitude lists
There have been many times that I’ve had to remind myself that being able to WFH is a privilege when I think about the individuals fighting the virus on the front lines. Starting the day or week with the simple act of jotting down a list of five things that you’re grateful for, can help you count your blessings, find the silver lining and start your day on a more positive note. The expression and acknowledgment of gratitude is correlated with happiness and can help you handle adversity better too.
- Give a compliment
Feeling valued and appreciated is fundamental to how we operate. Paying someone a compliment or celebrating a job well done can help to provide a sense of achievement to the receiver which is beneficial for one’s overall wellbeing. Compliments also help us to notice the good around us, make us feel better and create a more optimistic outlook. For inspiration, you can refer to my colleague, Elise’s lovely blog on 10 random acts of #coronaviruskindness here.
- Practice self-care
Self-care looks and feels different for everyone. It could be taking vitamin D, having a hot bath, trying your hand at preparing a new recipe or mixing your favourite cocktail – any activity which makes you feel relaxed, encourages you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and aids in transmitting the positivity with others too. We lead busy lives and it can be easy to forget to put yourself first, especially if you have multiple responsibilities to juggle and people to take care of. Self-care is not selfishness – it is imperative to make looking after your physical and emotional health a priority too.
- Structure and sleep can be saviours
I’m a creature of habit and thrive in maintaining a routine and sticking to a plan. Structuring the day has provided a sense of comfort in a time when situations are beyond our control. We are living through a period of increased anxiety and aiming for a more balanced sleep routine can also help combat the mental exhaustion, giving us the rest and strength that we need to cope with our circumstances on a daily basis.
- Do absolutely anything that makes you happy
During lockdown our days can feel repetitive and begin to blur into one, but this also presents us with opportunities. Filling your spare time with something that you’ve lost touch with or not had the time to do previously, is another way to feel motivated and more energised. I’ve picked up the paintbrush again after years!
- Avoid the ‘I’m fine’ trap
If you’re experiencing burnout, please know that you are not alone and please don’t hide it: talk to someone you trust or an expert about how you feel. Comparing notes and sharing thoughts can help reduce stress – we are all in the same boat. It’s been an especially difficult time for those who struggle with their mental health, the uncertainty brought by the crisis, the isolation of working remotely and juggling home schooling for some, is having an even deeper and negative impact on a lot of people’s overall wellbeing.
- Remember that comparison is the thief of joy
In a culture which seeks external validation, in the previous lockdowns, we went through a wave of seeing people on social media bake banana bread, whip up Dalgona coffee and flaunt self-improvement by filling their time with ‘productive’ activities like learning a new skill.
The pressure to turn lockdown into a constructive experience can lead to more anxiety and guilt – the idea that we are only living our life to its maximum potential if we are constantly hustling and on the verge of burnout is an issue which needs to be put to bed! It is time to forgo our comparison culture, focus on our own situation and address our own needs.
- Set up a virtual coffee catch-up – with a colleague, friend or family member
This is something I’ve loved to do! A quick chat could be a stress buster, help ease one’s mind and I’ve found myself diving back into my to-do list with new found energy after such calls. It’s also so important to take the time to reach out and connect with people who live alone. Loneliness and isolation can lead to an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
- Stretch, get some fresh air and go for a walk
It can be difficult to step away from our desks, but physically disconnecting from your workspace will actually benefit your stress levels, boost your serotonin and help you to be more productive in the long-term. To quote a classic film, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”