While a new year is often cited as a time of new hope, high expectations, and brimming optimism, in reality, this positivity rarely lasts long. In fact, the third Monday of January – which this year falls on the 18th – has been identified as being the most depressing day of the year, resulting in it being given the moniker ‘Blue Monday’ by psychologists.
So, what is it that makes Blue Monday so blue? An unfortunate combination of dark nights, bad weather, and squeezed finances, mean cheer is light on the ground for many at this time of year. With the excitement and indulgences of Christmas a rapidly distant memory, and the promise of longer days and sunnier weather still several months away, many struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
2020: A year like no other
With 2020 being a year many of us would rather forget, this year’s Blue Monday looks set to be bluer than ever, as Covid restrictions follow us into the new year and the reality of a cold, harsh, winter under lockdown sets in.
While huge swathes of the population have suffered with the negative effects of social isolation, money worries, and wide spread fear and anxiety over the last year, business owners have arguably had it worse than most, having not just had their personal freedoms curtailed, but also their business activities as well.
Layer on Brexit uncertainties, as well as the effects of a global economic crisis, and you have all the ingredients for a mental health and wellbeing disaster.
Blue Monday for businesses
Unfortunately for many business owners, Blue Monday is nothing unique; instead, it simply represents the start of yet another week where they have no alternative but to sit back and watch their premises remain closed, customers stay away, and uncertainty over their business’s future grow.
While business owners are used to facing pressures and making tough decisions as part of their role, the challenges presented over the last 12 months are unlike any that have been faced before, and this is understandably having a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of company directors and sole traders across the country.
There is a real fear that some businesses may end up closing for good not due to the financial difficulties caused by Covid, but the mental health pressures being placed upon company directors as they struggle to stay optimistic in the face of a seemingly never-ending litany of challenges and interruptions to trading.
Coping with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty as a business owner
Uncertainty is one of the major factors impacting businesses during this time. There is uncertainty surrounding not just when businesses will be allowed to resume meaningful trade, but also what will this look like in a post-pandemic world.
Will customers return as quickly as they left, or will consumer appetites and priorities have changed for good? Many are expecting permanent shifts to take place when it comes to working patterns, buying behaviour, and customer expectations, and it will be down to businesses to pivot their offerings to reflect this.
However, when no-one knows exact what the post-pandemic landscape will look like, it is difficult for businesses to make these changes.
Protecting your business as well as your health
Amidst this overriding lack of control, it is important to focus on the things you can control. This will help put your business – and also yourself – in the best position possible for bouncing back once restrictions are lifted for good.
- Stay connected – Whether this is with colleagues, customers, or other businesses, remaining in touch with those you work with as well as those facing similar pressures is not only great for fostering a sense of community which is great for your mental health, but it will also help you see that you are far from alone.
This is a global pandemic with barely any sector immune to the devastating impact on trade; companies of all shapes and sizes, from all four corners of the world are experiencing the same problems, challenges, and frustrations you are. You are not alone so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Know where you stand – When times are bad, it’s easy to ignore the situation and hope matters resolve themselves on their own accord; however, in reality, this is rarely the case. Instead, confront the situation you are in head on; ensure you know exactly what position is your company in and how you can improve this. Think about the following as a starting point:
o Are you claiming all the reliefs and entitlements you are entitled to?
o Have taken advantage of a tax deferral scheme, and if so, do you know when your next payment is due?
o Is your cash flow sufficient for covering your outgoings and how long will you be able to sustain this if your business activities continue to be curtailed?
o Are you prepared for re-opening when the time comes – do you have enough money to purchase necessary stock, and are you employees ready to return on short notice?
Taking the time to sit down and map out your financial and operation position will not only help you see where you stand from a practical point of view, but ensuring you have all the basics covered also goes a long way to easing an over-active mind.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – When you have evaluated your company yourself, consider taking advice from an outside party who will be able to look at your business from a new angle and spot potential where you may have glossed over it. Whether you are looking to scale a business, recognise where you need support, or identify areas which can be trimmed to allow vital resources to be diverted to more profitable areas of the business, a fresh set of eyes could be just what you need. This is where a business coach can help. Action Coach UK are the UK's No 1 business coaching firm with the skills and experience you need to propel your business to the next level.
- With crisis comes opportunity – Evaluate what you have learnt and the skills you have developed through being forced into this new way of operating over the past year. Maybe you have learnt how to make faster decisions as you were forced to respond quickly and decisively to the ever-changing landscape; maybe you have adapting to flexible working arrangements which could cut down operational costs going forwards; perhaps you have dipped your toe into delivery, take away, or click and collect services; you may have been trading via a streamlined operating model which may have identified areas in your business which were not as cost-effective or as efficient as you hoped.
While looking back over your personal and business successes over the last year, make sure you look forward too. Minimising negative thinking and focussing on the positives is a great mindset to be in. Changing consumer preferences open up a whole new market which could be ripe for opportunity. Consider whether you are able to pivot your offerings or reach out to a new customer base to seize upon these shifting customer demands and expectations. This could be the opportunity to try something different with your business.
While Blue Monday may give us heightened awareness of our mental wellbeing, we should be thinking of our mental health on more than just this one day of the year, particularly amidst this period of global upheavel.
As we look towards a future free from the restraints we have been under for almost a year, you need to ensure you have the tools to re-charge your business as well as yourself as an individual.
While you may be diverting all your efforts into looking after your business at this time, don’t forget about yourself; your business is nothing without you.