So here we are at the beginning of 2021 and…we are back in lockdown!

At least, that is the is the situation here in the UK where I live and also in many parts of Europe. That means that the kids are back to home-schooling, entertainment of any kind is off the table and we can only go out to exercise or buy essentials. Sigh. I have friends in other parts of the world that seem to be living life more freely with fewer restrictions, but even so, we are all still feeling the stress that the pandemic has brought.

I know there have been a lot of hopes pinned on the end of 2020 and a return to normal life in 2021, but I’m afraid we’re not quite out of the woods yet. On the plus side, vaccinations have started and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. On the minus side, that light is further away than we had hoped, and we won’t get there before March at the earliest.

But don’t lose hope my friends! We have all learned from the previous lockdowns and it is a new year that brings a great opportunity to do things differently. As I am a Productivity Coach, I am already looking at ways to streamline more processes and maximise the time you spend on personal and business projects. But before any of us are ready for all that good stuff, I thought it might be more helpful to put your head and your body in the right space first to face the stresses of the situation head on.

While being in lockdown can be lonely and frustrating, there are ways to boost your spirits and socialise from the comfort of your home. We have actually been navigating the situation pretty well in my family (I have 4 kids and 2 cats), mostly because we have set some ground rules that we all try to stick to. To help you stay positive and productive, I would like to share these strategies with you and hope they can help you and yours: 

6 Top Tips for Beating the January Blues

1 – Routine

We all need to have structure and predictability during these times of uncertainty and that begins with good sleep. This may sound obvious, but it’s really important to try and maintain something like a normal wake/sleep cycle. Having good sleep hygiene is so important for health, energy and our ongoing battles with stress, so please give sleep all the priority it deserves. Even though it’s tempting, try not to get nocturnal because it’s not good for us. That means turn the Netflix off. It will still be there tomorrow. Promise.?

It also really helps if you try and work at the time you normally would. If possible, try and get the kids to do the same.  Also, eat at the time you normally would as it all helps to keep you in a really good routine and improves your mood.  Eventually, this will be over and the more you stick to your regular routine now, the easier it will be for you when we go back to normal.

2 – Planning

It’s really helpful to start the day with intentions about how you will spend time together with your family or housemates and how you will spend time alone. None of us are used to spending so much time with others and we need to be clever about how we manage it. That includes planning your time apart as well as your time together. Time alone can be used for creative, physical or developmental activities (this includes chillin’). In my house, we spend a decent number of hours pursuing our own things.

Generally, our together time is focused around eating. We all gather for mealtimes and have worked hard to make them fun. For example, we did a “Dinner through the Decades” challenge where every few nights we had a decade theme with its own music, clothing and after dinner game. We went through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s and it was really fantastic to see how creative everyone could be! What activity can you dream up?

3 – Creativity

Finding ourselves confined to our homes is actually a great opportunity to flex the creativity muscles we don’t usually have time for. You can engage in activities that encourage positivity like meditation, deep breathing, keeping a journal, reading a book, doing some painting or coming up with a new recipe.  You can also use this time to declutter and organise. My 11 year-old has discovered a love of baking (delicious but almost impossible to resist!) and my 2 older girls have completely cleared out and revamped their rooms and bathroom – it’s been almost a decade since this was last done.

You can also come up with specific and meaningful goals that you want to accomplish like reading that book you’ve been meaning to get to, painting, drawing or singing.  Setting a goal and accomplishing it really lifts your mood and brings other people pleasure as well. You can also make your friends be party to your creative moments by asking them try out your new recipes or give reviews about your paintings or stories. You can also challenge them if you both enjoy the same activity – do your own bake off!

4 – Movement

It is so important for our moods, our energy, our general health and stress levels to maintain regular exercise. You don’t have to turn into a fitness freak but just make sure that you’re getting some movement in every day. I like to take a daily walk targeting 7-10 thousand steps a day. Often I do this with my husband and it gives us a chance to just talk and connect. 

A good way to begin is to set small physical goals to achieve daily like walking 5km, doing 30 minutes of yoga or even simple things like cleaning house or doing laundry. There are also thousands of options available online from aerobics and yoga to personal training and Pilates. No excuses!

5 – Communication

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to use Skype, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and FaceTime. It is so important for us to use these tools to maintain meaningful connections with friends and loved ones. A good idea is to make a scheduled weekly call to reconnect with a friend or family member. For example, my extended family has a Zoom call with participants from all over England and Australia every week. We each take turns making a quiz, a Kahoot or other challenge to keep those competitive juices flowing. What’s family without competition, right? 

It goes without saying that the standout communication app for everything from meetings, talks and webinars to coaching and chatting has been Zoom.  With fun features like a beautification filter and virtual backgrounds that mean you can conduct your meetings from atop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the Eiffel Tower or Space, the app has overtaken old favourites like Google Hangouts and Skype to become the video calling app of choice during the coronavirus pandemic. Remember that it’s not just for work though! It’s great to arrange online chats with individuals or groups of friends and family too.

6 – Social Media

Let’s take a moment to talk about Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and the hundreds of other platforms that keep us connected with each other. Not only can you participate in conversations about any topic you can think of, but you can also learn new skills or improve existing ones. These platforms really provide a golden opportunity to connect to like-minded people going through the same things you are who have knowledge and wisdom to share.

So there you have it, 6 ways to bust through the January Blues and the ones that will probably try to come along in February and March too. I hope these strategies help you come up with productive and rewarding ways to spend your time while trying to maintain some much-needed positivity. You can do this!