Lockdown learnings can help maintain good mental health all year round, says RedArc ahead of Blue Monday

With Blue Monday nearly upon us, RedArc is urging employers to remind staff that lessons learned during the early days of the pandemic can be applied to maintain good mental health permanently.

The third Monday of January is traditionally known as the most depressing day of the year, brought about by post-Christmas debt, short days, bad weather and failed New Year’s resolutions. However, RedArc believes that many employers and employees are better-equipped than they were previously to deal with emotional wellbeing during the difficult winter months.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “During the lockdown periods, many people found themselves with enforced free time and whilst this was not welcomed by most, it did give an opportunity to discover or rediscover nourishing activities. It’s now time to reflect and think about what we can take forward to look after our own mental wellbeing.”

Whether or not Blue Monday is considered a significant day or simply serves as a reminder that low mood and feelings of depression and anxiety are more prevalent at this time of year, it’s an opportunity for employers to encourage positive activity amongst their staff.

RedArc encourages employers to support staff in the following activities and behaviours that were learned during lockdown:

• Physical exercise – as well as relieving stress and anxiety, being fitter can help with self-esteem, lift mood and improve sleep. When restrictions meant that we were only allowed outside to exercise for one hour a day, this became a ritual and felt like a treat, leading many people to go for walks or runs, perhaps more than they were doing previously.

• Being outdoors – daylight can have a big impact on our mood as sufferers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) know only too well. Rekindle the love of being outdoors, even on a cold day, as we did during the pandemic when walks with friends and outdoor socialising became the norm. If working prevents employees from being outdoors during daylight hours, suggest lunch breaks are taken outside and even sitting indoors by a window can help.

• Self-care – making space for a simple relaxing bubble bath, reading, cooking, sport, meditation, yoga are all activities that we used to fill our time during the pandemic but may not be on the agenda now life is getting busier. Encouraging and celebrating employees’ diverse hobbies and activities is important to maintain staff health within the workplace.

• Relationships – one of the very sad aspects of the restrictions was the impact on families and relationships. Employees may still be struggling with the aftermath of this and so providing confidential support for staff is important. All employers can be encouraged to spend more time with those people who make them feel uplifted and positive.

• Gratitude – having experienced such restrictions on our personal liberties, perhaps the positive takeaway is the acknowledgement of all that is good in our lives. Developing a habit of recognising and feeling grateful for good things, no matter how small can lead to positive and fulfilling feelings. Employers can lead by example here and share their own gratitude as a way of encouraging staff to do the same.

Christine Husband continued: “Not all staff will have the motivation or means to undertake these activities and even some who do will still become physically or mentally unwell. In these circumstances, it is important to signpost individuals to support and employee benefits that can provide specialist advice and guidance as well as sourcing the most appropriate form of therapy or other professional help. However, the majority of staff will be able to incorporate small changes in their routine that can make a big impact on their mental health.”