In 2005, travel company Sky Travel published a viral report notoriously labeling the third January of the month as "The Most Depressing Day of the Year" as determined by a variety of factors including weather, debt levels, and the fact that most people have already given up on their resolutions. The validity of the report was up for debate, but it's not a secret that many people experience seasonal depression this time of year, and here are some tips to keep a smile on your face this winter.
At the Office
According to a study from the American Institute of Stress, more than 60% of working Americans' leading stressor is work-related. That could be the work itself, a lack of job security, or frustrations with colleagues, but regardless, here are a few tips to stay in the 40% who didn't report work as a major cause of stress.
- Improve your work conditions. There are many resources for your employer to discover ways to make the workplace less stressful and prevent workplace depression, but if they fall short, there are a lot of things you can do, too. Simple things like adding a plant to your workspace or a photo of a loved one can make it easier to temporarily escape work. A clean workspace has also been proven to increase focus and reduce anxiety.
- Master calming techniques. Music is a great one for most people, and utilizing the countless "Ocean Waves" or "Calming Rain" playlists on Spotify, Pandora, etc. is a great way to start calm and stay calm. If your job requires constant communication and headphones aren't a viable option, even having a soft "rain" in the background can help. Guided meditations have been proven to drastically lower stress levels, but these should probably be done before work or during a break. Many of them can be completed in less than 20 minutes.
- Stick to your schedule. First, you have to make one, but most people have that step covered, at least in the workplace. No one can avoid an occupational situation where they put in days of work just to have something rejected. This feeling of uselessness can often lead to depression, but it's important to remember that scenario happens every single day at every single employer. Sticking to a schedule can give you the feeling of self-accomplishment even if you may have struck out in the company's eyes (which happens to everyone!).
Away from the Office
- Turn your phone off. Everyone needs time for themselves to promote good mental health and combat depression, but "being alone" isn't really "being alone" in the 21st Century if you're updating your social media status or emailing a potential client. Leaving your phone upstairs while you watch a movie is even more than a lot of folks do, and countless studies have shown that time away from screens is time well spent, from a mental health standpoint.
- Find a new hobby. Often, hard workers' longtime hobbies are stressors in themselves because it's more of something to master rather than something to enjoy (think sports, playing an instrument, etc.). Finding a hobby with no competitive fragments or measurable results is a great way to truly let your mind rest. You can't lose at finally watching the first season of Seinfeld!
- Treat yourself. Stress eating can be done in moderation and, thus, doesn't have to be a bad thing. Go to your favorite restaurant or have your favorite candy bar, just don't do it seven times per day. Go see your best friend from college that you've been putting off for two years for no real reason other than "I have lots of work." These may sound simple, but they work.
Just as Blue Monday will come and go, so do stress cycles, though much less predictably. If your employer is missing the mark on providing a positive work environment, you can take these small steps to do it yourself, at least to some degree, and then enjoy you. Turn that phone off and find some peace.