Grey. Cold. Long. That's January. Some welcome it as the perfect time to refresh routines and recharge. But for others, January can feel like a letdown; like a bad day that goes on and on. In the interest of fostering a psychologically safe workplace, it’s important for employers to understand the effect this post-holiday month may have on their employees' mental health. By taking a few intentional steps, you can avoid the seasonal mental health pitfalls, which can help prevent the January Blues altogether.
"It's about regret," says Amanda Gorman, a Health and Safety Consultant with WSPS. January Blues "are about realizing that you've overspent for the holidays, overindulged at parties, and have not kept up with your new year's resolutions," she says. Managers need to be aware that employees may be feeling this way as they return after the holiday season. Having that awareness will allow you to help your staff take steps towards positive mental health, rather than contributing to the stress many of them are already experiencing.
January Blues can be considered a situational depression, which means it's usually related to a recent event or set of circumstances. In most cases, it only lasts for a short time. "One way to mitigate these feelings is to change the things you're able to control," says Amanda. Follow these four tips to help you and your employees beat the January Blues.
- Set realistic deadlines. Avoid trying to get everything done before the holidays "A lot of pressure is put on employees to meet year-end deadlines," says Amanda. "When you’re stressed, you’re not as productive and quality can suffer. Manage deadlines so that workloads are realistic in December and into January." If you don't, you risk sending the message that you expect people to work during the holidays in order to get it done. "Make sure employees know that they are expected to disconnect over the holidays," says Amanda. Doing this will lower the stress on your staff as they approach the holiday season.
- Combat overspending by focusing on relationships. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to buy expensive gifts, put effort into planning events or experiences you can have with the people in your life. "For example, plan a day trip to a museum or a camping trip," suggests Amanda. "These types of gifts emphasize spending time together and are easier on your wallet, which helps to avoid regretful spending."
- If you set a New Year's resolution, work up to it. "One of the most common contributors to January Blues is putting pressure on yourself to make a significant change in your life and then feeling bad about yourself if you don't meet that expectation right away. "If working out more or going to the gym is a resolution you made for yourself, recognize that it might not be practical for you to do it during your first week back to work after the holidays, and that’s ok," says Amanda. "Start off with going for a walk a few times that week or maybe aim to get to the gym once at first and then slowing work up to going more often." If you're taking steps toward your goal, that's what matters.
- Give yourself something to look forward to, at home and at work. Planning something that will take place in mid to late January can change your outlook during this time. Rather than feeling that post-holiday letdown, you'll have something positive to focus on. For example, if you planned an outing or event as a gift for a loved one, schedule it around the third week of January. "Managers can follow this advice as well and schedule something positive in January that will inspire the team. Set aside time for everyone to meet, re-evaluate projects, and refocus goals," suggests Amanda. Having something to look forward to and focus time on goes a long way toward beating the January Blues.
How WSPS Can Help
Connect with a WSPS Workplace Mental Health Consultant to find out more about the services they can provide.
- Workplace Mental: How Managers Should Respond (classroom, 3.5 hours)
- Mental Health First Aid (classroom, 2 days)
- Stress In the Workplace (eCourse, 1 hour)
- How a New Free Resource Can Help You Build a Psychological Safe Workplace
- Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplaces Video
WSPS has partnered with Workplace Strategies for Mental Health to deliver a series of practical, evidence-based workshops, personalized for you. Each workshop includes strategies, tools, and resources to turn knowledge into psychologically safe interactions. Learn more about the importance of balance, building resilience, emotional intelligence, and why clear leadership and expectations are important for healthy workplace programs to be effective. Interested in learning more? Contact WSPS.