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21 January 2019

Beat Blue Monday: 10 tips to build resilience at work

Today (Monday January 21) is Blue Monday, said to be the most depressing day of the year. Can building resilience help us beat the blues at work?

Some dismiss Blue Monday as pseudoscience, but many people would agree that January can be a miserable month. Everyone faces setbacks at work and at home and they can seem even more challenging in dull old January.

And this can particularly have an impact on our working lives. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 17 million work days a year are lost to stress, anxiety and depression while the World Health Organization says stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century. Employers are increasingly recognising how stress can damage the workplace, affecting productivity and pressurising staff who have to cover their colleagues’ work.

More and more we’re hearing that the solution to this epidemic is building resilience. The Government-backed Fit for Work initiative defines resilience as the ability to adjust to adversity, maintain equilibrium, hold on to some sense of control over the environment and move forward in a positive way.

There are ways to build resilience, making it easier to cope with stress at work and at home. But how are some people able to bounce back while others wilt under the pressure? And how can we help employees learn from them?

Employers can promote physical and mental wellbeing, and make sure the workplace is a pleasant and happy environment. They should also look for signs of stress in staff and offer expert support if appropriate.

If you’re planning on running a resilience campaign for employees — or even just topping up your own — here are some simple tips to share and get you started:

  1. If possible, cycle or walk to work, at least a few times a week. You’ll be fitter and will also get a boost of exercise-induced happy hormones before the working day even begins.
  2. Think about your first hour at work: it can set the tone for the rest of the day. It’s the time to tackle challenging projects. Many people automatically check messages and emails first thing but try not to until an hour has passed.
  3. Encourage your team to re-plan the office so noisy activities are screened and it’s easier for people to concentrate.
  4. Try to sit less. We sit for nearly nine hours each day, which can disrupt blood sugar levels, increase insulin and blood pressure and depress your metabolism. Get Britain Standing suggests standing and even treadmill desks.
  5. Pinpoint what triggers stress or poor mental health. This can help you begin to anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them, says mental health charity Mind.
  6. Take regular short breaks from a task – moving briefly to a different task (or a cup of tea) will refresh you and improve concentration. But try not to multi-task; switching between two tasks is enough.
  7. Keep moving. Even going for a 15-minute lunchtime walk every day can help clear your mind, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. If you really can’t get out, do some desk stretches.
  8. Get organised. Preparing things like lunch and clothes the night before will mean you’re less rushed in the morning – and less stressed.
  9. Check your breathing. As we tense up, we take shallow breaths from our chests. Make sure your abdomen moves as you breathe deeply.
  10. Count your blessings; being grateful and positive make you feel good. Keep a journal or daily list of things to be thankful for and make a point of congratulating and thanking other people.

Our main advice: start with small steps and gradually increase your resilience and well-being – both for Blue Monday and the rest of the year.

Further reading

Fit for Work blog

Sequel Talks: Work/mind balance