It’s January. It’s cold outside. Omicron is still hanging around like an unwanted party guest at 4am. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by gloom and anxiety, you’re not alone – it’s totally normal to struggle with negative feelings, especially today, Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up and spend the day wrapped in a suffocatingly heavy blanket of doom. We spoke to a psychologist and a counsellor to find some practical ways to banish your misery and clear your mind.
1. Be aware of ‘all or nothing’ thinking
We’ve all done it: one sniffle and we think we’re patient zero of a new and uniquely terrible strain of Covid. But assuming the worst isn’t a helpful strategy. As BACP-accredited counsellor Louise Tyler explains, ‘In any kind of anxiety, we always go to the worst-case scenario – it’s called negativity bias. But we have to be mindful and pull ourselves back and say no, what’s the reality here? What’s actually happening, versus what we’re predicting might happen?’
2. Switch off from the news
One easy step to stop yourself prophesying doom is to take a step back from the doomscrolling. ‘If you’re feeling anxious, it’s probably best to avoid the news’, says Tyler. ‘We have to remember that the news is designed to hone in on that negativity bias, because it’s much more gripping for people. So you might make a decision that you’re going to watch one TV news programme once a day.’
3. Remember, it’s okay not to feel okay
For Tyler, one way to cope is just to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. ‘Acknowledge that life right now isn’t normal,’ she says. ‘We are depleted mentally and maybe even physically. So we might have to take some things out of our social lives; we might have to have lower expectations of ourselves and others right now.’
4. Make healthy routines
Nope, we’re not suggesting starting the day with 5am yoga or sprouting your own alfalfa. As Tyler explains, ‘Our body loves routine and structure, so it could be about scheduling a walk at a certain time each day, or planning in a tea break. We might not have control over the bigger picture – whether it’s events being cancelled or having to work from home – but we can create our own little micro routines.’
5. Get out into nature
Yeah, you probably already knew that getting outside has a host of health benefits. But when you’re anxious, sometimes it’s hard to remember to schedule in some healing one-on-one time with your favourite tree. But Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist and author of ‘The Leader’s Guide to Resilience’ reckons it’s time to change that. ‘Being out in nature helps prime our neural pathways to fire more happy hormones,’ she says. Plus, it’s also a helpful reality check: ‘Looking out into the vastness and beauty of nature does remind us how small we are, and maybe some of those problems that have been feeling really big don’t seem quite so big anymore,’ says Tang. Why not check out our list of the best London walks for inspiration?
6. Get creative in a low-pressure way
Tang also reckons that getting creative is a great way to lift your mood, but that doesn’t mean putting yourself under pressure to pen an ‘Infinite Jest’-sized literary hit or monetise your talent for pottery on Etsy. ‘It’s a good time to take a bit of creative rest,’ she says, ‘where you engage in something you’re passionate about while taking the back seat. So if you’re a dance teacher, go and learn choreography that someone else is teaching you. Or go to an art class or a book group. Let someone else do the planning and bring the materials, you just go and enjoy it.’
7. Prioritise pleasure
You don’t have to listen to Self Esteem’s hyped album to know that a bit of pleasure is a great way to get through rough times. ‘Finding joy is something that can really create a buffer to the stressors that we’re going through’, says Tang. ‘It can just give us that little bit of extra energy to handle something or to tell ourselves it’s okay.’ She recommends creating a photo album of memories of good times with friends and family. Or why not plan to go for a walk with someone you love?
Try some music therapy. These songs are guaranteed to put you in a happy mood.
10 fun things to do in London this week.