January is the cruellest month. It can feel more like a nightmarish 5-year time prison than a 30-day month. If you’re a university student, your first essays and mocks of the academic year are due around now. For good little worker bees, various projects ramp up as the New Year begins to pick up speed. And that to the fact that it’s freezing and there’s only 5 hours of daylight a day, that’s a helluva cocktail for bad mental health.
Today’s Blue Monday and supposedly, that’s where it’s all supposed to come to a head. If you’re feeling the weight of your brain right now, it can be hard to take the time you need to balance yourself with so much going on at the same time.
Of course, if you’re consistently experiencing any kind of mental illness, don’t seek quick fixes. You should talk to someone and where possible seek professional help. If you need something more immediate, however, try these five short activities, which can be done separately or in any combination, designed to keep you steady.
When does anyone have the time to look inwards during a study sesh or on the job? Almost never, but thanks to technology there are plenty of ways to get in a spot of mindfulness on a busy day. Useful apps like Calm, Headspace and Buddhify will help you stay centred and grounded with its wide selection of simple exercises.
When it’s cold and miserable like it often is in January, you have to make a little bit of extra effort to get your Vitamin D. You usually get this from natural light and without it, you’ll start to feel more tired, confused and weak than usual. The answer? A little outdoor excursion. On your next break, take a short walk outside when the daylight is at its peak. Not only will you get that Vitamin D, but the fresh air and exercise will lift your spirits too.
Breathing exercises are a great way to combat to combat the onset of tension and anxiety. There are several different ones you can do, too. One of our favourites is the 8-4-7 technique; exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, inhale nasally for 4 seconds and hold it for 7.
Another is the focused breathing technique, where you take long, deep breaths while maintaining your awareness on the air rushing in and out of your nose. This helps clear your mind of errant stressful thoughts. You can repeat both of these as often as you like throughout the day
The ‘Love Blast’
This is probably going to seem ultra-corny to you, but research from the HeartMath Institute swears by it. The advice they give is a very simple visualisation exercise where you close your eyes and try to picture a good friend, family member or loved one.
This will encourage the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which will give you the extra emotional boost you need to keep going. It works for locations too, so when it all gets a bit much, try ‘going to your happy place’.
Unplug from everything
Honestly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, a quick break from your electronics will do you so much good. The glare from screens can be quite harmful to your eyes in long, uninterrupted stretches and all that contributes to your physical and mental fatigue.
Aside from that, overuse of social media (which hey, we’re all guilty of in the office from time to time) can also bring you down a bit. Some time away from everything that pops and pings – even if you just sit at your desk and turn away from it – should free up a little bit of rental space in that brain of yours.