What can we do when everything’s a struggle?

And so, we’ve reached Blue Monday – designated the most depressing day of the year. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s not Christmas anymore; basically, things suck. Everything feels like a struggle.

But, for many of us, most of the past year has been one giant Blue Monday.

I’ve noticed that when my mood is low, everything becomes a struggle. When something goes wrong, it feels like a personal attack.

When someone else is extremely positive and happy, it feels…like a lot of noise. It’s annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that they’re happy and I want them to be, but when someone is jumping around like Tigger, and you’re busy over here being Eeyore, it can feel a bit overwhelming. It can also make you think ‘That person is happy. Nothing’s getting them down. Why can’t I be like that?’ Which only makes you feel isolated and your mood worse.

How can we look after ourselves while the world continues to be a giant trash fire?

1. Take regular breaks, try to keep normal office hours, use annual leave

When I’m in a low mood, I become a battering ram (only, made of marshmallow, instead of, you know, something useful). I will stare at my screen and keep trying to make what I’m doing work. It usually doesn’t. If it does, it’s after a long, hard struggle with a brain that doesn’t want to cooperate. When this happens, I need to remind myself that it’s much more helpful to step away from the screen and do something else, like play with the cats for 10 minutes. Sometimes this helps me work out the problem I’ve been struggling with, other times it doesn’t work. And that’s okay too.

Try to keep regular office hours. It must be much harder to do this if you’re also trying to help children with schoolwork or have other caring responsibilities, but whenever your working hours are, try to keep track of them so that you don’t do too much.

Many people, especially those who spend holidays abroad, didn’t use a lot of their annual leave. Even if we can’t go on holidays, time off is still vital. It gives us a chance to change our routines, work on hobbies, and take a break from work-mode. No matter how long we spend in lockdown in 2021, time away from work will continue to be crucial.

2. Turn off the news

A habit I fell into last year was scrolling the Guardian live COVID feed a couple of times a day or seeing a news tweet and heading off to read the article just to fall down another article spiral of how hard the pandemic is hitting everyone.

Sometimes it can feel like you should be reading these articles and updates, especially when people are telling their stories. It can feel like you’re turning away from people’s suffering if you don’t pay attention.

But it comes down to one question. What is in your control to change? I can’t force people to wear masks or obey lockdowns. So, while it’ll always be frustrating, there’s no point spending significant emotional capital on worrying about the behaviour of millions of strangers.

Perhaps it’s better to check the news once a day and spend the rest of it just doing the best that you can.

3. Be kind to yourself

‘Be kind’ has been a trending phrase for a few years now, but we often forget that being kind to ourselves is just as important as being kind to others.

It’s easy to look at social media and see people seemingly thriving and achieving their goals while, for you, it feels like a struggle to get through the week. I find it helps to remember that many people use social media to promote their best selves – their highlight reel. While we’re left comparing it to our worst moments and feelings. Step away from social if you need to.

A lot of us are more anxious and stressed than usual. It’s really easy to take things personally, catastrophise and wonder why everything’s going wrong. The truth is, things always go wrong, only many of us don’t have our usual coping mechanisms.

We can’t vent to mates down the pub on a Friday evening or spend our commutes getting lost in a book. What can you do to replicate these missing rituals? It’s not just about work and surviving, we still need to relax, have fun and laugh – even when things are bleak.

4. Reinforce the team

Teamwork isn’t only about how well you work with people to get projects done. It’s about trust, vulnerability and support.

Do you trust the people you work with? Are you able to share worries and talk things through with each other? Can you be vulnerable in front of your manager without worrying what they’ll think of you? Does your team work to bolster each other up?

Healthy teams know that they work best when everyone has each other’s backs. They know that everyone has struggles, and everyone makes mistakes. Are you in a supportive environment like this? What can you do to contribute to the team being more supportive?

One of the experiences that’s been very useful for me is the Mental Health Half Hour run by Chatelle Jeram (Wellbeing Coordinator at our client, The Social Element). The sessions stemmed from a discussion on the Facebook Group, Lockdown: a marketing, media and PR community of practice – which has been a very supportive place for comms professionals during the pandemic.

We need to accept that it’s okay to be vulnerable. We’re going through a prolonged, often intense, crisis. Sometimes, we won’t be operating at 100%, and that’s okay.

Featured photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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