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5 Min Read

Beating Blue Monday and the winter productivity slump

16 Jan 2023

Falling on the third Monday in January – this year it’s the 16th – Blue Monday is supposedly the most ‘depressing’ day of the year. Did you know Blue Monday was invented by a holiday company as a PR campaign to help sell holidays back in 2005? Their not-so-scientific approach involved identifying a combination of factors that can make us feel down during the month.

The weather, short dark days, post-festive break lull and re-acclimatisation back to work can all contribute to making us all feel a bit low at this time of year. For those with depression or who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can make their symptoms worse.

The winter blues can also affect our energy and motivation. A 2017 study by US-based project management software company Redbooth found that productivity in the workplace drops during January and February. Analysing its data over a four-year period, it discovered that winter is the least productive season, with users completing only 22.8% of their annual tasks on average, compared to 27.3% in the autumn.

To support your team and colleagues through this winter productivity drop and help protect them against the things that might trigger a low mood, you could share these ideas for combating the winter blues.

  1. Plan ahead. Brush off the New Year cobwebs and make a list of all the things you’d like to do over the next month. Include names of those you’d like to do them with. This could be work get-togethers, one-to-ones, and catch-ups with your team. Then book them in your calendar and keep the commitment.

  1. Spend time in the daylight. Spring can seem like a long way off and many of us are still leaving for work and returning home in the dark, so it’s important to get some natural light – even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you’re on a remote working contract or working from home regularly, take advantage of the change to get outside.

    Research from NHS Inform has shown a daily one-hour walk can be a very effective way of beating back the blues – so try getting outside for a short stroll during your lunch break.

  1. Start acting towards your goals. What would you like to achieve or change in the year ahead? If there’s something you’re keen to do, such as moving along a collaborative project or learning a new skill, make a start! It’s tempting to think ‘I’ll wait until I’ve got more energy’, but if you make the leap now, starting slowly and gradually building up your efforts, you can beat the lethargy and begin the year with a sense of achievement.

  1. Aim to be present. Whatever you’re doing, at work and at home, focus on the activity and on the people you’re with. Always looking months down the line and imagining what they might hold can be overwhelming and lead to worry.

  1. Watch out for negative thoughts and predictions. Often when we’re down or anxious, our thoughts are skewed negatively, and this can turn into a ‘vicious cycle’ that makes us feel worse. Our thoughts, behaviours and emotions are connected – so if we think, for example, ‘Blue Monday is going to be miserable for me’, this may influence our feelings and our behaviours, which in turn can lead to more negative thoughts.

    Ask logical questions to look at the situation differently, like am I trying to interpret this without all the evidence? Am I 100% certain this is true?

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that stress, anxiety or depression are not confined to a day in January. The Health and Safety Executive recently estimated that 30.8 million working days in 2021/22 were lost to work-related ill health – 55% due to symptoms of common mental health conditions.

Anyone who’s feeling especially down or depressed should seek support, talking to their GP about what help is available. They could also try cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is very effective at treating depression. Depending on where you live in the UK, you may be able to access text-based CBT with ieso through your GP. Find out if you are eligible here.

If you live in the US, you can access further support by contacting your Primary Care Physician or learn about alternate options here.

Blue Monday is supposedly the most ‘depressing’ day of the year. Did you know Blue Monday was invented by a holiday company as a PR campaign to help sell holidays back in 2005? Find out more here.