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How to combat the January blues by Head of Wellbeing Ashley Lourens

In an ideal world, we would return to work after the holiday season feeling rested, motivated and in top shape to tackle the coming year. Unfortunately, having a holiday break does not necessarily mean we feel ready for the year ahead. 

People’s mental health can be negatively affected by the festive season due to various reasons and while it takes time to heal from the festive-stress, before we know it, it’s January again! The month when we start to face an onslaught of a whole year’s work ahead with no rest in sight. 

It is no wonder than January can indeed be a stressful month for managers and employees. You may not be able to completely cure your employee’s January blues, but there are some things you can do to help ease them into the new year. 

Let’s have a look at what could be the cause of these January blues and what you can do to ease the strain on mental health in the new year.

  1. Anxiety

Us humans like to function in black or white, living in the grey space can be challenging. When we close our laptops for the final time before going on annual leave, we often close the hypothetical work tab in our brains too. This means we have quite a fair amount of time in total holiday mode, so switching back to work mode can be incredibly anxiety-provoking.

It’s normal to feel some anxiety as you open your laptop and dust off the keyboard for the new year (queue a string of emails, meetings, and to-dos). All this work can feel overwhelming when our brains have been switched off for a while, and if not managed with care, it can lead to a pretty tough start to the year. 

How to help: 

  • Start the year with a team meeting, addressing the probability that many of your teammates are feeling anxious to get back to work. It would be a good idea to remind them that they are capable and proficient, and that it will take some time to adjust to being back at work. Knowing that their feeling of anxiety is seen and heard and that they are not alone will help take some pressure off their minds
  • Avoid discussing overly stressful or complex plans on the first day back. Give everyone a chance to breathe and settle in before freaking them out with a huge new project list. It is okay if the first day or two people are starting to warm-up.
  • Check up on your employee’s organisational skills. Often anxiety is a result of too much to do with no plan. Spend some time discussing organisational techniques and methods to help them structure and plan for the upcoming weeks.
  • Teach them some anxiety management tools like using guided meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling activities. 
  • Remind them to take each task step-by-step.

  1. Guilt

When people go off to celebrate the festive season, they are likely to overindulge in food and drinks, or disturb their usual fitness routine like not exercising.

Now that they are back at work, they might aim to re-establish their usual healthier routines. There is a high chance of people feeling guilty as after the holidays people usually reflect on their regular routine and feel responsible for allowing them to break the habit.

It is important to remember that some people may also feel guilty for having taken holidays in the first place! Guilt eats away at our confidence and ability to get back onto the horse (pun intended). 

Here’s how to help: 

  • Remind your employees that taking a break is just as important as being on point all the time. For us to function at an optimal level we need balance. Taking a break from work to focus on relaxing is necessary.
  • There is such a thing as toxic productivity – this is where overworking is viewed as a mark of success. Try to encourage your team to frame productivity in a positive light where taking breaks is viewed as just as important to success.

  1. Doubt

With all that anxiety and guilt, the confidence and belief in our ability to work productively, effectively, and valuably can still be on leave when we return to work. It’s normal for us to sometimes come back to work feeling like an imposter who has no clue what we are doing. This can leave us doubting our abilities, reduced motivation and could add to uneasiness. 

How to help: 

  • When you have your welcome-back team meeting, remember to keep it light and positive. Thank everyone for their hard work and establish how important they are to the organisation.
  • Take time to have a quick chat with employees individually, checking-in on their holiday, their new year goals and reminding them of their value.
  • Giving people words of encouragement during this time is a sure-fire way to boost all the feel-good endorphins and help people feeling competent, valued, and motivated for the year ahead.

Let us start this year off being more conscious than ever about mental health. The best thing you can do for your employees is to break the stigma of mental health in the workplace. We are living in truly uncertain times, especially where careers are concerned so let us support our humans wherever possible! 

This article has been written by  Ashley Lourens, Head of Wellbeing at Healingclouds. To find out more about Healingclouds and their amazing work, click here.

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