By Sarah Carlin on 21 January 2019
Top tips for remote workers to boost wellbeing on Blue Monday and beyond
Blue Monday was originally conceived in 2005 as a PR stunt by Porter Novelli for holiday company Sky Travel. They claimed to have calculated the most depressing day of the year using a mathematical formula to establish when we’re most likely to feel down, looking at factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas and failing New Year’s resolutions. The intention was to inspire people to make bold life decisions to rid themselves of their mid-winter malaise, although this wasn’t the message that cut through. As a result, the most depressing day of the year was born.
Unlike many PR-generated days, it’s stood the test of time. The concept of the most depressing day in the calendar falling on the third Monday of the year continues to capture the public imagination, despite having been dismissed by the scientific community.
Making complex issues clear in specialist areas, such as health-tech, requires senior experience and absolute clarity of thinking. Journalista’s unique, remote working model frees people to work as flexibly and remotely as they need – around meeting their client’s needs – so we can employ the best in the business from across the UK and beyond.
As we grow, we’re increasingly mindful about enabling our team to realise the benefits of our way of working while avoiding potential pitfalls.
So to mark Blue Monday, we turned to one of our client’s key experts – chartered psychologist and clinical lead at the UK’s largest digital provider of healthcare XenZone – Dr Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell – for advice on maintaining optimum wellbeing as a remote team:
“At this time of year there can be a real collision of negative events – debt, failed resolutions, short days and dark nights – that can lead to people feeling low and like they have nothing to look forward to.”
“On top of that, Christmas can often be an ordeal for people who may already be struggling, meaning that people will rally round and provide support. However, after the festive season is over, this support network may withdraw and people are left feeling lonely. It’s also worth remembering that doing Dry January or going on a drastic diet can be quite a shock to the body after the festivities and lead to people feeling down.”
This situation can be especially exaggerated for freelancers and those who work from home, adds Dr Paidoussis-Mitchell.
“When you work from home it’s easy to miss out on several factors that help to promote good mental health. For example, you will frequently have limited opportunities for endorphin-boosting social interaction, and miss out on the all-important Vitamin D that you benefit from – even on dull days. All of this can add up to a reduced sense of wellbeing.”
However there are some simple steps that remote workers can take in order to boost their mental health, she explains.
“Small changes can make a big difference,” says Dr Paidoussis-Mitchell. “It can help, for example, to buy a paper diary and write down an achievable goal for each day – and block out the time to do it. This can be as simple as going for a 30 minute walk or meeting a trusted friend for a coffee.”
“And remember that it’s important to view wellbeing holistically. Just doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day – anything that raises the heartbeat a little – can be as effective for supporting wellbeing as antidepressants. And while it’s tempting to reach for the biscuits, especially when you’re feeling low, remember that eating sugary food gives you a false boost. In the long run, comfort eating makes you feel worse. It may not be exciting, but a glass of water or herbal tea will do more good for your body and mind.”
Armed with these insights, some of the Journalista team considered what they could do to support their wellbeing as remote workers…
Mary-Louise Clews, Journalista’s Content Director and resident yogi says she has resolved to go to bed and get-up a bit earlier during the week to do some dynamic yoga and mindfulness practice to start the day with a smile, rather than trying to fit it in during the evening, which eats into downtime with the family and can impact ability to get to sleep.
“I’ve only followed this new routine for a few days but already I am seeing the benefits. I’m calmer and more engaged with the kids during the breakfast and get-to-nursery/school routine and much more focused and productive during the working day too.”
Sarah Bradnum, Journalista PR Exec, admits that she struggles with maintaining a consistent routine, as far as exercise is concerned.
“I love yoga and Pilates, and I find that I’m able to get in a really effective workout in my home but ONLY if I consciously build in the time. Exercising does not come naturally to me, so I really have to to make an effort when it comes to making an effort! This is especially tough when working from home, as the temptation is to go straight to my desk as soon as I’m up, and then carry on working well into the evening. I would like to be more boundaried when it comes to making time for myself and my mental health.”
Journalista Founder and CEO, Holly Sutton, knows that a little goes a long way when it comes to dedicated time to yourself.
“With two very young kids – one a teething toddler – my ambitions to wake up early to exercise are frequently thwarted with the kind of midnight shenanigans that if videoed could put an end to teenage pregnancy. So, it’s probably kinder on my body and brain to get that extra 30 minutes of sleep.”
“On my working from home days, I set time for big chunky tasks like client strategies and roll out the yoga mat for a 15 minute ‘wake-up’ yoga class as a treat ahead of some head-down focussed time. It always cheers my day and I mark out when I’ve achieved it in my paper Productivity Planner.”
“Just a quarter of an hour to focus on myself makes such a difference to the quality of my focus and creative thinking. Amidst the demands of business and family it’s so easy to forget yourself. But, looking after your body and brain with the same kindness you show everyone means such better work on a daily basis.”
Dr Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell is a UK Chartered Psychologist, HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist, and Associate Fellow of BPS & Clinical Supervisor. You can check out her blog, where she regularly shares her advice on coping with such issues as grief, anxiety, and depression, and you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.