According to psychologists, the third Monday of January is officially the hardest day of the year when it comes to feeling positive and motivated. Christmas, with all its associated togetherness and joy, seems like many, many weeks ago and most of us are no longer approaching our New Year’s resolutions with quite so much gusto, three weeks down the line. This year, the effects of being deep into yet another UK-wide lockdown is making even more of us than usual struggle on what the media has dubbed ‘Blue Monday’.
Businesses have, of course, addressed the issue in very different ways in their social media communications Some have used the opportunity to promote their products and services as a way to ‘make you feel better’ and ‘give yourself a lift’. Others have come up with ways to take better care of yourself such as connecting with loved ones for a cuppa or taking a mindful walk or bath. Still others have shared phone numbers and websites for organisations that can help you cope with a dip in mental health or feelings of sadness and anxiety (* see the end of this article for some useful helpline details).
The differences in approach seen on social media this ‘Blue Monday’ can also be reflected in how different individuals and leaders also approach the subject of mental health in themselves and other people. Knowing what effect poor mental health in just one person can have on both them and their entire team – as well as really understanding how to listen to, talk to and support anyone going through a difficult patch – can really show the measure of a truly great and empathic leader.
They say that you cannot pour from an empty glass
They say that you cannot pour from an empty glass, so any leader seeking to support their team’s mental health must first pay attention to their own feelings and state of mind to ensure that they are strong enough to take on the role of supporting other people. This means taking ownership of not only the way that you perform and lead, but how you feel and react inside whenever you are doing it. This can be a difficult area to face.
Many leaders suffer from imposter syndrome, or the secret belief that they are not as capable as others perceive them to be. While certain aspects of leadership do rely on presenting an appropriately confident and professional front to make other people feel reassured in your presence, no-one can keep this up indefinitely if they do not also take full ownership of their feelings and emotions and learn how to address these in a healthy, productive way.
This is where the art of critical reflection comes in as an extremely useful tool for getting to know your strengths, weaknesses and to help you define your own personal ’brand’. A good place to start with this is to think like a marketing expert. What is it about you that makes you employable and attractive to work with and for? What values do you stand for and how do you live these out in your working life? How do you measure success in yourself and in others and how do you work to build yourself back up after experiencing obstacles and/or failure?
Do you learn from your mistakes (we all make them!), or are you frightened by them so that you do anything you can to avoid coming across the same situation again? We all worry about what other people think of us, but these worries can sometimes be unrealistic and overly harsh. Do you really believe that people are reacting in the way that you fear they are about you when you come across as less than perfect? Imagine you are the one doing the reacting to someone else’s error and consider whether you do, in fact, offer them a fairer appraisal and greater understanding of the wider situation and their role in it inside your mind than you would grant your own self. Is this fair?
We often say we are striving towards becoming more ‘authentic’ without always knowing what that means. In terms of a personal brand and greater awareness of our own mental health and emotional stumbling blocks, this means taking time out for proper self-reflection. This, along with working on controlling unhealthy thoughts and impulses and understanding what’s expected (and not expected) of you in your role, so that you can meet your own expectations more frequently, will go a long way towards boosting your confidence, shoring up your mental health and showing you exactly what type of authentic, effective leader you can be – whatever day of the year it happens to be.
Want to find out more? Speak to Gayle to find out about leadership and emotional resilience training options available in 2021, including MHFA courses taking place online or in person.
* Helplines that can help if you (or someone you know) are struggling with low mental health, emotional distress or anxiety:
- MIND: 0208 2152243
- NHS: 111, option 2
- Samaritans: call 116 123
- SHOUT: Text SHOUT to 85258
- Women’s Aid: 0800 58 58 58
 Source: https://news.sky.com/story/the-worst-day-of-the-year-why-not-turn-blue-monday-into-brew-monday-12191166. Accessed 19 January 2021
 Source: https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469. Accessed 19 January 2021
 Source: The Leader’s Guide to Influence: How to use soft skills to get hard results’, by Mike Brent and Fiona Elsa Dent, 2010, pp. 60-65
 Source: ‘Resilient Leadership: beyond myths and misunderstandings’, by Karsten Drath, 2017, p66