What can you do about the Monday night blues?

Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. As much as the pseudoscience has been debunked over the years, it is stubbornly sticking around, so we might as well acknowledge it.

Many of us are familiar with Sunday Syndrome, that sinking feeling as the weekend draws to a close that it will soon be Monday all over again. But what can you do if you have the Monday night blues? If the reality of being back at work was as bad as you had been fearing: what then?

Right now, I suspect more people are feeling Monday night blues than ever before. It’s January, which is never a cheery month in the UK, as it’s cold, damp, Christmas has been and gone, and the January paycheck seems an eon away. And this is January 2021. In the UK we’re in our third full lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last 10 months have been tough, and the promised hope of 2021 is slow to come. People have lost jobs, loved ones and opportunities.

The job market is hard right now, and we are expecting this to continue for some time. You may not feel able to leave a job right now, which can lead to you feeling trapped.

If you regularly have the Monday night blues, here are a few suggestions that may help. And if you are struggling, there are some links to how you can get help at the end.

Focus on the things you can change

While you may not be able to change your job right now, what changes can you make to make things more enjoyable? Talk to your manager about taking on a project or task that you would enjoy, or would give you a stretch, and a sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed it.

If you’re employed, self-employed, or out of work right now, is there a new skill you could learn that you would enjoy. Even better if it could improve your chances of a new job, or piece of work.

And focus on how you spend your day. Gary Gower wrote his guide to life in lockdown in April last year. While his suggestions can’t change a job you don’t like, he has useful tips for when life is tough. Breaking up your day so that you get away from your desk can help break thought patterns that may be contributing to how you are feeling about your situation right now.

Celebrate your wins

Every week in the Lucidity Network Facebook group we celebrate our wins for that week. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Whether you’ve secured a promotion, won a long-planned for pitch, gained some insight from a ‘failed’ project, or managed to go outside for a walk every day that week, you’re encouraged to share this with the rest of the group.

Why do we do this? Because we know that many people are pretty rubbish at celebrating their achievements: I know I am. By being asked to think about this at the end of each week, we’re prompted to reflect on what we wanted to achieve. This can gradually train our brains to have a growth mindset, and to focus on what we’ve achieved rather than hasn’t gone well.

There are many ways you can celebrate your achievements. Some people like to write three positive things in a journal at the end of each day. This year I’ve started a jar of achievements, and I’ll write down my achievements and watch the jar fill up over the year. The important thing is to start doing it, so why not join the Lucidity Community Facebook group where you’ll be prompted to each week. You never know, you might find it helps.

Do something that sparks joy

Not to get all Marie Kondo on you, but joy is important for us all. I need to point out that joy and happiness are different things. As a rule of thumb, joy is cultivated internally, and happiness tends to be impacted by external events.

Author J.D. Salinger once eloquently described the difference as: “The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.”

Because we can spend a huge proportion of our time working, we can often feel that if work isn’t going well that means life isn’t going well. Finding and doing things outside of work that spark joy and meaning in your life can help mitigate some feelings of dissatisfaction. Perhaps there’s a hobby you’ve been meaning to take up, a class you’d like to start again, or volunteer for a cause you really care about. If you’re feeling fulfilled outside of work, it’s easier to feel a level of joy that isn’t easily shaken by bad days at work.

Jo Gibney is Head of Business Development at the Association of Volunteer Managers, a membership organisation for anyone who works with volunteers, and a freelance digital community manager.

Need help?

If you are struggling right now, your GP should be able to signpost you for help, or the Mental Health Foundation has a page of resources: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help

*Coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004, after a holiday company asked him for a “scientific formula” for the January blues, Blue Monday falls on the third Monday in January every year. Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-51173730

Are you good at asking for help?

Last month I ran a webinar with Caroline Doran, founder of Deliver Grow on managing uncertainty. We had some great questions and an interesting theme came up. It’s not the first time.

Several times I asked viewers to put their questions into the chat box. I encouraged people to ask for help, even if it was specific to their situation because I could pretty much guarantee that someone else would be grappling with the something similar, so it would help others too. Also I felt pretty sure that someone else would have been through a similar situation and come out the other side, and therefore could help.

The questions started to flow, and it highlighted and sparked a conversation about how we can find it difficult to ask for help.

It can happen for many reasons:

  • We’re worried about what other people will think.
  • We’re worried of asking something that may seem silly or trivial to others.
  • We don’t like to feel vulnerable.
  • We feel we should be able to figure it out for ourselves.
  • We know others have got lots of things that they’re worried about so we don’t want to add to their stress.
  • We hope the problem will just go away and we won’t have to bother anyone.

The thing is, the vast majority of people like helping others. We’re social animals, we live in communities. Helping each other is just part of being human.

Yet, even though we may like to be asked for help, even though we like helping other people, even though helping other people makes us feel good, when we have a problem we often hold back from asking others.

It doesn’t make sense!

Who are we not to give others the opportunity to help us? Who are we to deny others the opportunity to feel good? It’s a gift to be able to help other people – yet we often feel that asking for help is a burden.

Also in my experience most of the time we think we’re alone but we’re not. When we voice our feelings, we learn that other people have experienced what we’re feeling too. Just knowing we’re not alone can be helpful in itself.

So next time you think that the problem will go away, that its silly or that other people have enough on their plates without you asking them for help. Just ask for help.

One of the reasons I set up the Lucidity Network was to provide a community where it feels OK to ask for help. A place where people have a sense of belonging, understanding and enjoy helping each other. If you promise to ask for and give help you can join us here.

You can also watch the replay of the webinar on managing uncertainty with Caroline Doran in the Lucidity Network archives.

Gary Gowers guide to getting past the 6-month wall

A guest blog on getting past the 6-month wall, by Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier that likes to be heard.

A long time has passed since I wrote my first ever blog – my guide to life in lockdown. When I wrote it I didn’t realise that the corona virus would impact us all so significantly or for so long. Last week we hit a 6-month wall.

I’m Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier and I live with my PA Lucy Gower.

At the start of lockdown we were optimistic. I was delighted that I got better walks and the long evenings and the light mornings meant I got the best sniffs of the day. My PA got really busy providing more support and connection for her membership community, the Lucidity Network. We even had Zoom lunches where I got to wear a cravat and cheer people up just by being me! But then we got Zoom fatigue from looking at people and pets on a screen all day and we went into a decline.

That’s when my PA had a panic as her work is mostly training and conference speaking in rooms with lots of people. They stopped happening. She wasn’t going away at all. We were stuck at home alone and I missed seeing my friends at doggy day-care. We both got a bit grumpy and anxious.

I think this was when my PA started baking cakes. She made a different one every week to practice new recipes’, and feel she was learning new things. But that stopped in June when she said the cakes were making her clothes shrink.

Then we worked hard at optimism. My PA appreciated that she wasn’t spending much on petrol. We got lost on the common a lot as (my PA said she had to do 10,000 steps a day) and we appreciated discovering new tracks and bogs. I appreciated the volumes of stinky mud I got to roll about in.

We’ve definitely got to know each other better, and we have adjusted to a different life. My PA always has an online delivery booked in, and the cupboards are better stocked in case we get locked down. We do good walks and don’t get lost as much as before, although there has been less mud. We moved to a smaller house that apparently costs less and I have new neighbours to bark at.

But last week I’ve noticed my PA is back in a slump. I think she hit a 6-month wall. She’s got a kind of disinterested boredom. She said she has brain fog and is finding it difficult to concentrate. She’s talking about wading in treacle. She’s struggling to be motivated to do anything; work, relax, watch TV, read or do the washing up. At least she still gives me dinner and takes me for walks, but even that feels like an effort. I think her mood affects me. I sit on the top of the stairs with a sad face. Even my favourite toy, Christmas Pig doesn’t cheer me up.

I was listening to the radio and apparently there’s a thing called surge capacity.

According to Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota; Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems – mental and physical – that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.

However, she says that natural disasters usually occur over a short period and are visible. If there’s a hurricane or a flood you can look outside and see the damage. And according to my PA (dogs don’t have great sense of time passing) we passed the 6-month wall last week and there’s nothing visible – just an uncomfortable feeling of indefinite uncertainty.

Masten says. ‘It’s important to recognise that it’s normal in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress to get exhausted and to feel ups and downs, to feel like you’re depleted or experience periods of burnout.’

Basically we run out of steam. No wonder my PA is feeling it. Maybe you are too? Me, not so much as I’m a dog and I just roll with the punches, but my PA talks about a feeling of loss; loss of ‘normal’ life.

Gary Gowers tips to get past the 6-month wall

The ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty. All the tips to help you adjust to life in lockdown in my last blog still apply. In addition, here’s some things that I’m working on with my PA to help her keep going for however long it takes.

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel

If you feel rubbish, disconnected and disinterested then that’s OK. You don’t have to be brave if you’re just not feeling it. Work on just accepting that’s how you feel. Give yourself permission to expect less. It’s OK if you feel like sitting on the sofa. It’s OK not to feel great. Accept that it is what it is for now. I just go and sit in my bed with Christmas Pig.

You can’t change the situation but you can change how you approach it

My PA said that 2020 had been a ‘sh*t show’. Acknowledge that and then find a ‘yes and’ to go with it. For example, ‘this year has been really tough but me and my PA have got to hang out a lot and go on some great walks with some brilliant mud which has been really great’. Don’t deny how you feel, and in addition to the gloom, see if you can find a positive ‘yes and’.

Make plans

We all need to have something to look forward to. And lots of us have had big plans curtailed by the pandemic. (I was supposed to go and stay with my grandparents, who give me lots of treats and I was super disappointed). Don’t stop making plans for the things you enjoy doing. It helps to have something to look forward to. Even planning a walk with a friend can make a positive impact on your day. Recently my PA and me went canoeing to the pub with some friends. We looked forward to it, and it was a really super afternoon.

What things do you miss – and how can you recreate them?

We’re all missing things, holidays, coffee with friends, playing at doggy daycare. Jot them down. Are there things that you can adapt? For example, many people have told my PA that they miss the informal chats at work while making tea because all they do now are proper meetings. Can you start the meeting 10 mins early and everyone in the meeting make tea first to still have those chats? I miss when my PA used to leave me on my own when she had meetings, so I go and hide on my PAs bed and pretend she’s gone out.

Build your resilience bucket

Humans are resilient. You all have a full bucket and every knock back spills some resilience out of it. So its important to do things to keep the resilience bucket topped up and not let it get empty, because that’s when you burn out. Thankfully I’m one of the things that keeps my PA’s bucket topped up. She feels better after going for a walk or when she fluffs my beard up into funny shapes, or boops my nose. What’s your thing or things that help to build your resilience? And can you do them regularly so your bucket doesn’t get empty?

Stay connected

According to Masten, ‘The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social support and remaining connected to people. That includes helping others, even when we’re feeling depleted ourselves.’ 

I know that when I’m feeling grumpy I just want to sit on the top of the stairs on my own, but I know if I go for a walk, chase a ball, chew a stick and sniff other dogs that I feel much better.

Humans need to stay connected too and make a deliberate choice to do it. It can be easy when you have disinterested boredom to just go inside your own head. Be deliberate about stepping out of your own head and connect with others on a regular basis.

If you’d like help, support and connection to get past your 6-month wall, check out the Lucidity Network. My PA runs it. It’s a mix of training, learning and connection to a network of brilliant people to help you keep your resilience bucket full during the new normal uncertainty. You get to have the occasional lunch with me too. For more information and to join us click here.

Why does coaching work? So you’ve set some goals…..what next?

A guest blog by Jennifer McCanna.

Why does coaching work? This is something I often explore when running coaching skills courses for managers. There are lots of answers: it provides a non-judgmental space for you to come up with your own ideas, solutions and priorities. When you strip back the noise of the emails, the WhatsApp’s and the back-to-back Zooming, it’s amazing how swiftly you can access a way forward.

A great coach will also give you the right level of challenge and support to try the tricky stuff, to make difficult decisions, to stretch and grow. It’s hard to consistently stretch ourselves on our own.

A key part of helping you stretch is holding you accountable for the actions you commit to. You’re much more likely to commit to having that difficult conversation if you know you’re reporting back to your coach about it in a month’s time. That’s another reason why coaching works.

Accountability is crucial to how successful you will be achieving any goal. How often have you set some goals, and how often have they been drowned out by the noise of everyday life and not been achieved? We create accountability in many ways, not just working with a coach or mentor. For example, when we set up a fundraising page for that charity run and send it to our friends, we are creating accountability. We have to do the run now, because our friends have each donated a hard earned tenner to see us do it.

I’ve seen how setting goals and being held accountable to them really helps people make progress.

That’s why I’ve created a goal setting webinar especially for Lucidity Network members. These might be work goals or goals relating to a next career move. It’s a 90 minute webinar that incorporates both space for reflection and some accountability both to fellow participants and to me as a leadership coach.

Thinking about what matters to ambitious managers, I know you want to learn, grow, stretch and make the most of your talents. That’s why we’ll be spending 90 minutes really getting under the skin of what the next 6 months looks like, using some creative exercises and then turning those into really practical actions.

Crucially this goal setting webinar includes a follow up a month later so we can all be accountable to each other and I’ll be setting myself some goals too around helping you to achieve yours. Through this group approach we can all move our work and our careers, forward.

This year has been, let’s be honest, totally weird. But it’s not over yet. If you want to focus on making the most of 2020, and if you want to start 2021 really knowing where you’re going, join us!

To get access to this goal setting webinar as well as training materials, group coaching, a business book club, networking events and connected to an excellent group of people who will help you be accountable to reach your work life goals, join the Lucidity Network today. 

Jennifer McCanna is a leadership coach working with leaders & managers to develop the strategies, confidence and resilience to create a fulfilling and balanced work life, through 1-1 coaching and group programmes.

Follow Jen in her supportive corner of Instagram for coaching tools, models and powerful questions to help build your confidence, skills and influence. 

https://instagram.com/jen_the_leadership_coach?igshid=1exq4de5s5whz

www.mccannacoaching.co.uk

7 tips to gain confidence and boost your self esteem

Have you ever been making great progress only to get stuck and find your confidence disappears? Or perhaps you’ve achieved a big success that’s been quickly followed by a crash of confidence? Or maybe your confidence just evaporates away slowly over time?

Regardless of how robust we might appear on the outside, we are all vulnerable. We can be especially vulnerable when there is uncertainty.

Our confidence can easily be knocked by a passing comment from a friend or colleague. Or when we’re working hard to deliver a project quickly or make a change happen and are faced with blockers and negativity. I’ve also known confidence to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s why knowing practical tips for how to gain confidence is a crucial skill.

Then there’s the critical voice in your head that tells you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you’re going to get found out’. The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent and more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know, and stop pushing forward and getting things done fast because it feels safer to stand still. Only when you stand still does the nagging voice stop chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem.

It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance, and Suzanne Imes. It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterized by intense feelings of not being good enough, negativity, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise.

Gaining your confidence back once the little nagging voice takes hold is hard. I see it like this;

Every day, you have a bucket of confidence. Every time you get push back from someone, every time you get a negative comment, or even a disparaging look from the right person, a little bit of your confidence leaks away.

To gain your confidence and increase your self-esteem, you have to put habits in place to keep your confidence bucket full. Every day. I don’t believe that some people have confidence and others don’t. It’s simply that successful people are more accomplished at managing their feelings of self-doubt and silencing that little internal voice before it has a chance to jeopardise them.

‘If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ Vincent Van Gogh

Gaining confidence is about keeping your bucket topped up on a daily basis. Here are 7 tips to gain confidence and really boost your self-esteem:

  1. Log your achievements

Get yourself a physical notebook or create an online file and log your achievements. Log them all, especially the small ones because they add up.

Keep the good feedback you receive from other people; a thank you from a friend, the well done – good job email from a manager, or the time your colleagues went the extra mile for you.

Write them down. Writing them down helps you to acknowledge them, which makes you feel good.

In addition, seeing your achievements written down, helps you realise how far you’ve come, the positive impact you have every day and how much you’ve achieved overall. Instead of your ‘to do’ list – it’s your ‘I did it!’ or ‘ta da!’ list.

  1. Call out your Imposter Syndrome

It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another.

When that little nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real you and tell it to shut up.

Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. For example, if you think that you’re a failure, ask yourself, ‘What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?’ and ‘What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?’

  1. Become a mentor

Being a mentor isn’t just for very senior and experienced people, there’s always someone that you can help.

Helping someone else can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also realise how much value you can bring to others which in turn can help you to gain confidence.

Many industries have some form of mentor programme or scheme. If yours doesn’t, why not just go for it and put yourself out there? For example, you could post on your intranet or on LinkedIn that you are looking to mentor someone.

  1. Accept compliments

If someone says to you, ‘great job,’ or ‘you look wonderful’ or ‘well done excellent event,’ do you say ‘thank you’ and feel good or do you shy away and give someone else credit?

If you shy away from compliments, then stop. Own it and feel good about it. Next time someone pays you a compliment, smile, say thank you and own the good feeling that goes with that acceptance. (And note it in your achievements log!)

  1. Look after yourself

Looking after yourself helps you gain confidence. It’s fundamental to success. Make sure you get more than enough sleep, do regular exercise and eat healthy food. Make it a habit.

If you feel good, you gain confidence, which inspires you to look after yourself and you create a positive cycle.

  1. Be kind and generous

Being kind and generous to others makes us feel good; and feeling good helps us to gain confidence.

Linked to this, focus on being grateful for what you have and what has gone well that day. I’d suggest that you start by writing down the things you are grateful for every day and make a deliberate effort to be kind and generous to others at every opportunity. And again, over time this becomes a habit.

  1. Be prepared

The more you practice, the more successful you get. Funny isn’t it?

Gaining confidence is borne out of practice. Be prepared, practice the presentation, read the meeting minutes, research the person you are meeting.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the practice required to be the master of your skill being 10,000 hours. So start putting the hours in and you will gain confidence.

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’ Dale Carnegie

And finally, conquer the knowing-doing gap. You’ve now got a stack of practical tactics to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem. Every action you take will add up but it starts with you.

If you want to gain success, take action today.

If your confidence could do with a boost – check out my training webinar and workbook that gives you more tips and tools for you to work on your own confidence. For more information and buy the training go here. 

3 tips to keep your confidence at work