January blues

My birthday is in Japarty on....nuary.

I mention this because despite it being my birthday, even I find January a rubbish month. The thrill of Christmas is gone, everyone is on a detox (no birthday drinks for me then), pay day seems like an elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and it’s dark …. all the time!  January doesn’t really fill me with positivity and it seems that I’m not alone.

The Samaritans report that more calls are made about financial worries in January than at any other time of the year as our pre-Christmas credit card bills land on the front mat with a thud.  And it’s not just money worries that are affecting people’s mood. Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Relate, the relationship charity, reports a 52% increase in the number of clients attending with relationship problems.

“We expect this week to be the busiest ever for Relate as people get back to work and think about their relationships following the Christmas break”

Adding to my pessimistic view of my birth month is the arrival of ‘Blue Monday’. If you’ve read any newspapers today you are likely to know what I’m talking about.  The third Monday of January is apparently the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday lands on 21st January….today.  After all this is it any wonder that we all feel a little flat in January?

But how helpful is all of this doom and gloom?

As a psychologist I know that where we choose to focus our attention has an impact on our mood. If we focus on all of the negative things that are happening, then this will likely have an adverse impact on our mood. This is true for any time of the year so why pick on January?

With a little digging you are likely to find out that Blue Monday was actually invented in the mid-2000s by Sky Travel to boost holiday sales. Often cited as a ‘fact’ this label was a PR spin that isn’t based on any scientific research. Another well-known ‘fact’ about January is that it is the month with the highest suicide rate: not true. Research isn’t consistent but reports spring, summer or autumn as the peak depending on what you read.  Winter isn’t even mentioned.

It is true that people report more financial and relationship difficulties in January than other months but perhaps this is a good thing. I see it as people taking advantage of a new year to face up to problems that started long before January even began. Perhaps the ‘enough is enough’ mentality is at its strongest in January and it makes us galvanize into changing our lives for the better?

With a new year comes New Year’s resolutions and I only have one this year…… be kinder to January and in turn, it might me kinder to me.

environmental stresses?

Imagine if you could go to work and play computer games, take a dip in the company swimming pool or perhaps phone the onsite masseur to help relieve your knotted shoulders. If you work for the internet search engine giant Google this could be a reality.

More and more companies around the world are taking employee wellbeing  seriously and recognising the benefit of happy staff through increased productivity and profit.  The founder of Technogym, Nerio Alessandri, had new offices built with employee wellness in mind. It’s about putting the focus on the employees,’ says Alessandri who promotes employee wellness as a way of life.

Alessandri’s 1000 employees are well looked after and he feels this investment is worth it for the success of his company, ‘Happy, healthy workers are proven to be more productive. We spend a significant part of our day at work. Not only does a more positive, creative and productive workforce mean less healthcare costs for the system but a healthy and efficient body goes hand in hand with creativity and intellect.’ During their two-hour lunch break employees can choose from a range of healthy lunches prepared with fresh, local ingredients and are encouraged to do some physical activity with access to a gym and basketball court.

The wellbeing services and facilities offered by Google and Technogym might not be realistic for your business but small shifts in culture can have a dramatic effect on employee wellbeing.

Simple steps to promote employee wellbeing could include:

  • Discouraging working through lunch or eating at desks.
  • Being flexible with breaks. Do you have a dedicated area for employees to relax on breaks?
  • Encourage physical activity. This could be cycle to work schemes, setting up a football league or discounted membership from the local gym
  • Encourage employee to use all of their holiday allowance. Employees come back relaxed and are more productive in the long run.
  • Open door policies. Are senior managers easily reached so employees can to discuss their concerns? Dealing with stresses quickly can stop situations spiralling.
  • Encouraging face-to-face communication. Emails are vital to modern business but not everything needs to be done via a computer. Human interaction can do wonders to improve mood and foster strong working relationships.
  • Getting some greenery such as a few plants and having access to plenty of fresh air. When the office is an inviting place to come to employees are more motivated and productive.

At resolve we would love to hear from you. Have you or your office implemented any changes that have improved employee wellbeing? Share it with other businesses and help to spread the message of employee wellbeing at the heart of successful business.

The 12 days of stress-free Christmas

stress at christmas

We’ve had a sprinkling of snow, the German market is back and the Dome has its lights up (since October!). It can only mean one thing: Christmas is fast approaching.

Christmas can be a stressful time of year with many people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression during the festive season. From writing cards, buying presents, visiting family and friends, office parties and financial pressures Christmas is a time of extra responsibility and we can all feel the strain. If nothing else, reassure yourself that these feelings are normal.

To help ease the stress read our tips for surviving the ‘12 days of Christmas’….

12 heads are drumming

Feeling run down can make us more susceptible to colds and flu. Stock up on cold remedies and vitamin C to keep you fighting fit this festive season.

11 lists are writing

Getting organised can really help to alleviate the stress of Christmas. Write a list of everyone you need to buy presents for, decide on a budget and write gift ideas next to everyone’s names. Inspiration doesn’t strike standing in a packed shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon – go with a plan.

10 lords-a-eating

Diet and exercise can take a back seat in December as we all overindulge but don’t forget the stress busting benefits of exercise. You might not have time to go to the gym but try other activities such as connecting with friends and family by going for a walk.

9 merry ladies dancing

Christmas brings office parties and increased socialising. It’s easy to over indulgence on alcohol and food. Keep hydrated and have a few alcohol free days per week. Don’t use alcohol or food as a way to cope with the stress.

8 maids-a-stressing

In general women take on the majority of the preparation involved in Christmas. You’re not superwoman and no one expects you to do it all. Asking for help from your partner, friends or family can help ease the burden.

7 crowds avoiding

Avoid the crowds: if you can, do your shopping online with a cup of tea and a mince pie. All of the major supermarkets offer home delivery and many things found on the high street can be ordered online – take into account delivery times and speeds.

6 engagements pending

Before you find yourself tight up with too many activities and commitments, decide what activities have a positive influence on you and you enjoy, and which are superfluous. Choose to spend time with people you like and do things you that are important to you, leave aside those you don’t.

5 gold credit cards

Set a budget and stick to it! With the less money than ever it’s important not to get into massive debt for just one day. Big families could consider buying only for the children. Would you really miss another generic gift set? Don’t forget to budget for ‘hidden’ costs such as overseas phone calls and travel expenses.

4 families fighting

The majority of people will be calling on family over the festive season. Spending time with the family can be stressful especially if not everyone gets along. Don’t expect miracles: If your family argue and bicker this isn’t going to change at Christmas. Don’t feel that you have to be a peacemaker. Disagreements, fights and arguments happen over Christmas –that’s life in a real family. Help ease your stress by avoiding known triggers in your family. If you know that Uncle Andrew is sore loser than stay away from games of Pictionary!

3 French chefs

Don’t panic, it’s only dinner! Putting pressure on yourself to prepare and cook the perfect meal won’t help stress levels. Delegate some of the preparation to others. If they are going to eat the dinner then they can help to prepare it too.

2 minutes for me

Take time out for a bit of peace and quiet. It’s easy to run ourselves into the ground rushing around by it’s important to take some time out. Get plenty of sleep and try some relaxation exercises to ease tension in the body.

And a partridge in a pear tree – get some perspective and remember that Christmas is just one day!

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