Keeping your spirits up on so-called “Blue Monday”

Which we know is a myth, right? Myth or not, today is pretty foul and dreary. It got me thinking about the influx of ‘you can do anything’ social media stuff which is supposed to buoy us up, but can be a total downer. Because, as social media is compartmentalised, it often translates as ‘you should do everything’ and behind it is that nasty aftertaste: why am I not? Am I cowardly? Am I lazy?

No, you’re prioritising.

The author who tweeted ‘be more creative!’ was independent of the coach who instagrammed ‘you can get fit’, and neither of them know the mummy blogger who chimed in with her suggestions on making this the most memorable year ever, or have ever seen the Facebook viral video about how anyone can make it ahead in any business with enough guts*.

None of them are really putting “100%” into everything they do, all the time: some might be able to cover all their bases but there will always be one thing that’s their passion, or their priority – and other things they manage in a simpler way. I’ve been in the position of trying to give 100% to each and every thing; it’s bad maths. It doesn’t add up. It’s impossible, and all the cliches you can throw at it won’t change the damage that misconception can do to your health, relationships and career. It’s something for another post, but it didn’t end well and that wasn’t for lack of hard work, resilience or skill. So now I prioritise: I aim to excel  at what I want to excel at, and I cast a critical eye over what can simply be ‘good enough’. I use a stepped approach: more frequent, smaller goals building up slowly, rather than any grand missions. It works for me.

When I’m feeling a bit lost, I now have a few things up my sleeve to remind me that I’m prioritising and that it really doesn’t matter what a stranger tells me I should be focusing on: I know what I want to focus on and I’ve got this. Here are a few of the things I’ve done recently:

  • Look to summer. It will come. Find a photo from last summer and think ahead – don’t make it a grand plan. Just think ahead.
  • Do some (basic) cooking for the next day, so you know you have a home-made meal without stress waiting for you. If you have a slow cooker you can watch yourself saving time whilst doing other jobs. Yesterday I ‘made’ steak casserole which I’m going to reheat tonight … no leftover Monday for us! Nope, I just chucked some pre-cut steak (reduced aisle) in with some frozen casserole veg, canned butter beans, herbs and spices and left it on until suddenly remembered it at 8pm! Now I feel a little bit smug.
  • Style something a new way and/or plan your outfit the night before. Not all the time. I tried that and it resulted in weather-inappropriateness and leg shaving accidents when I tried to stick to shorts because they were on the rack. But a five minute google of ‘ways to style a midi skirt’ at 9pm, and a little tweak like trainers instead of shoes, or a wide belt – it feels pretty smart in both senses of the word.
  • Walk somewhere. Possibly not on the day you’ve done the above one, it depends on the weather.
  • Contact someone you like. A friend, a colleague you respect – don’t wait for them, make a compliment or tell a joke (more than just a like or click!) via text, phone or face to face. Camaraderie always helps, as does a sense of humour.
  • Tackle one small, very annoying task in half an hour. Things like rationalising the bag of carrier bags, the crisp packets under the car seats, that dusty pile of magazines that needs to go into the recycling. Do it instead of something you know will get picked up later (e.g. loading the dishwasher, which will happen or we won’t eat). Do it, photo it, send the photo to another adult from your house going ‘yeeeaaaah’ and watch their confusion.
  • Set up a little family treat. A game, film, show or story you know is a winner. Don’t feel guilty if it’s low effort! Free play is wonderful for development if yours like it.
  • Take some time to read a professional blog or the news for your area of work. Sometimes we get caught in the everyday grind and a fresh perspective can add a little spice to our work.

One of the things I never used to prioritise was feeling successful: I thought it was all about the hunger for success. Now I realise it’s important to take stock of, and even generate little successes to boost myself on blue days. How do you give yourself little boosts? Let me know in the comments.

*Not always so. Maybe we need to look more closely than a viral video at why working-class women and other groups become clickbait stories when they succeed because there are so few?

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