Winter of Discontent

A cunning PR trick designed to boost interest in a travel company saw the birth of Blue Monday in January 2005. The firm claimed it had found a formula – based on several decidedly dubious ‘scientific’ factors – to calculate the most depressing day of the year.

It will be of no surprise that every year for the past 13 years, Blue Monday has fallen in January; this year it was 15th.

The science for Blue Monday might be shaky but there is no denying that many people feel depressed during the winter, and this sadness becomes more acute as we pass from January into February.

The fresh starts so fervently felt as part of New Year’s pledges are already a distant memory. The Christmas bulge remains stubbornly persistent around the middle, while the bank balance is decidedly leaner thanks to credit card bills falling due.

Yet while everything might feel miserable, now is the perfect time to take stock and make changes.

What is depression?

The purpose of depression is to supress emotions and allow the individual to focus on fixing what is wrong in their life. Depression often manifests as losing a lust for life; everything feels flat. This malaise is meant to encourage one to confront the underlying issue.

Rather than engaging in the flippant New Year’s resolutions – which are said to fall by the wayside for 80% of people within six weeks – the winter down time represents an opportunity to take meaningful action.

If one is overwhelmed with work or in running a business, feeling depressed can help focus attention on the causes. Perhaps responsibilities need to shift, or processes need to change. By concentrating on the issues to the exclusion of all else, one can make requisite change.

Time for change

When one has taken the time to experience sadness, one can either accept that the problem is irresolvable – perhaps a client has been lost or an employee has left – and then one can move on. Or it is time to make changes, increase prices, change production lines, delegate more responsibility and move life on for the better.

Rather than feeling that this bout of depression is entirely negative, instead see it as a time to refocus our efforts. On the whole it is not possible for anyone be effective 100% of the time, and this time of year is a good chance to step back and recharge. As in nature, winter is a time for rebuilding, strengthening and in some cases hibernating. For human, too this time of year is a time to regroup and recognise what needs to be accomplished.

It makes sense then, that many businesses conduct staff appraisals at the time of year. It is the prefect point to reflect on the past year and build a strategy for the next. However, holding effective staff appraisals is a challenge and in the next article I explore how to get the best from these important exercises.


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