Julie Tucker
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The January Blues: How to stay motivated at work

Once the excitement of Christmas is over for another year, it’s normal to suffer a bout of the January blues. We’ve all felt that complete lack of motivation following the festive celebrations.

On top of that, the lethal combination of dark mornings and cold weather can impact even the chirpiest among us.

January blues meaning

A massive two million people in the UK suffer from varying degrees of depression in January, according to studies. The January blues can affect people of any age, even children. Linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, it’s also called the “winter blues”.

Caused by the shorter days and lack of daylight; the symptoms can include depression, lethargy, sleep problems, irritability, over-eating, feeling generally down and not wishing to socialise.

The most depressing day of the year is typically the third Monday in January, according to psychologists. This is down to long nights, bad weather and the anti-climax following the Christmas holiday.

Many fear this period will be worse than normal in 2024, as the past 12 months have been extremely challenging.

How does it affect your work?

Unfortunately, these feelings make it more difficult to stay motivated at work. While it’s often tough returning to the office after any holiday, New Year is potentially the worst time.

Medical experts describe it as feeling “overwhelmed” and cloaked in a “mental fog”. This can impact your ability to get anything done. You may not know where to start as you sit at your desk, drinking large amounts of coffee, without a clear plan in place.

Before you start to panic, remember this is normal. There’s a physical reason why we feel less motivated in January than at any other time of year.

The lack of natural daylight confuses the body’s natural rhythm, lowering our levels of serotonin – a chemical related to mood and energy. This results in feelings of fatigue and sadness, leading to insomnia and potentially weight gain if we comfort eat.

They key to overcoming the January blues is to have a strategy in place for when they strike.

How to beat the January blues

Once they have set in, it can quickly become a vicious cycle. Losing motivation at work means struggling with your tasks. Nip those January blues in the bud by taking steps that are proven by science.

Stay motivated at work by devising a simple strategy in advance.

Eat healthy foods

Start off by sticking to a balanced, healthy diet. Most of us will have eaten too much over Christmas, possibly experiencing weight gain as a result.

This can demotivate just about anyone when your clothes feel tight and you’re tired and sluggish. The associated sugar crashes of an unhealthy diet cause you to crave more food.

The best foods for health are plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Your body may be craving carbohydrates, such as potatoes or pasta. You can eat these in moderation, but fresh fruit and vegetables are far better for you.

Drink plenty of water to detox your system. Although it’s normal for our system to crave heavy, fatty and sugary foods in winter, fight it! Add fruit and nuts to your diet, such as a packet of trail mix as a snack.

Create New Year resolutions

Include keeping fit and eating healthily as a New Year resolution and stick to it. Don’t be one of the week three quitters!

Polls have revealed 43% of Brits plan to become healthier and fitter in 2024, including changing their diet. This is one of the most popular New Year resolutions after the festive feasts. The top three resolutions also include exercising more (53%) and losing weight (43%) according to a survey by Statista.

A report in the Journal of Obesity says the average person gains around 2lb in weight over Christmas. Don’t slump into a January depression – do something about it before 2lb turns into 10lb over the next five years.

Improve sleep habits

Sleep deprivation can cause mood changes, anxiety, depression and a lack of motivation. If you’re lying awake at night, you will start the next day feeling irritable and frustrated.

Get into a night-time routine, such as having a hot bath and a drink of warm milk. Don’t sit up for hours watching horror movies on TV or scrolling through social media. This can over-stimulate your brain.

Try to relax by reading a book, or a magazine, until you start feeling sleepy. Some therapists advise a traditional method of nodding off, such as closing your eyes when you feel tired and starting to count down from 100.

Can you change your working day?

Once you’ve found a positive mindset at home, make changes to your working day to spread it to the office.

Even if you don’t feel like communicating with colleagues, force yourself. Once you take the first step, it becomes easier.

Don’t sit at your desk all day without a break or speaking to anyone else. Working in a coworking space can help, thanks to the positive and vibrant environment and community. The flexibility means you can have a change of scenery by taking a break when you need it.

Always take lunch breaks and coffee breaks, but if you start feeling overwhelmed, take a 15-minute walk outdoors. Getting as much daylight as possible can help lift your mood.

Coworking productivity has been the subject of many studies. Research by the Harvard Business Review concludes coworking employees thrive and become more productive in general. They have more control over their job, feel part of a community and believe their work is meaningful.

If you’re considering coworking space, London has some great options, such as our coworking space, Farringdon. Glass walls mean you’ll never feel isolated, and you can also enjoy plenty of natural light.

With music playing, well-stocked kitchens and break out spaces on each floor, there’s less chance of letting the January blues creep in.

Now, let’s get to work and show ‘em how it’s done!

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