Beating the Beckoning (Workplace) Blahs

So far it’s been some kind of winter! Down under right now (where it’s summer, however), a huge chunk of Australia is red with the worst of wildfires. In Canada, for the first time in over 20 years, you can fly coast-to-coast-to-coast and see nothin’ but white! And everywhere, thanks to the continuing economic “doom and gloom” heralded by newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts and television reporting (and also thanks to the actual reality of it all), a good portion of us are feeling blue. So there you have it. We’re not necessarily feeling–as the old rock and roll group Dave Clark Five sang–“Glad all over”, during this month of Feb., but rather, red, white and blue.

Consider recent newspaper headlines such as: “What I did on my lay off”, “Tough Luck”, “Thanks for ruining the economy, mom” and “Yesterday’s bad news is priced in, but what about tomorrow’s?”. February can be “blah” enough, in the best of years and at the best of times but, this February? It’s the worst. Or is it? Another recent headline, countering all that economic gloom, offers, “Dark days call for only one thing: optimism”. And, despite its grand financial woes–as it struggles to stay afloat while under bankruptcy protection–yet one more headline reads, “Nortel (Networks Corp.) asks court to keep (employee) morale-boosting program.” So there’s hope? Sure there is.

February may have the bum rap as being the only month of twelve with the “blahs” label attached but, it’s also the month of some uplifting days, too. A quick Google search of holidays around the world reveals that although, overall, there are surprisingly few holidays and celebrations in February, there are some…and they’re worth cheering on, to fortify your personal and your professional spirits until spring:

  • February 1st America’s Super Bowl Sunday energized millions
  • February 6th New Zealand Day
  • February 14th Valentine’s Day
  • February 15th National Flag of Canada Day (since 1965)
  • February 16th (Canadian) Heritage Day/Family Day & USA’s President’s Day
  • February 22nd Thinking Day (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts)
  • February 24th Pancake Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday)
  • February 25th People Power Day (Philippines)
  • And my brand new favourite: February 27th–Kissing Friday (England)
    …more historic than actually celebrated now. Kissing Friday (the Friday after Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday) was enthusiastically celebrated by English schoolboys, who were entitled to kiss girls without fear of punishment or rejection. This custom lasted until at least the 1940s however, upon first hand investigation (a quick call to my retired aunt and uncle in England), regretfully they have no personal recollection. I’ve now issued them both an assignment to interview a sampling of countrymen over 80 and see what they can report back!)

Maybe a bit more fun and (appropriate) collegial workplace affection is what we all need right now to rise above the “Beckoning Blahs”. After all, as Shania Twain’s UP! lyrics share, “There’s no way but up from here”. When you think of your work, right now–and everything else, to boot!–can you relate to these condensed UP! lyrics:

It’s ’bout as bad as it could be
Seems everybody’s buggin’ me
Like nothing wants to go my way–
yeah, it just ain’t been my day
Nothin’s comin’ easily…

When everything is goin’ wrong
Don’t worry, it won’t last for long
Yeah, it’s all gonna come around
Don’t go let it get you down
You gotta keep on holding on

Up–up–up–
Can only go up from here
Up–up–up–Up
where the clouds gonna clear
Up–up–up–
There’s no way but up from here

— Shania Twain

Want to go UP! from here and bring your colleagues and staff along, too? These lucky 13 February blahs-busting strategies will do the trick:

1. If you’re having one of those “blah” days, keep it to yourself and push through. Misery often loves company and what you think about expands. If you start, chances are others will pipe in with their “stuff”, too! No one wants to be around a “bad-day/”bad-mood” person.

2. Survey two or three of your most positively focused colleagues. Confess your “blahs” if you must but, quickly make your enquiry one of research rather than bellyaching, by asking, “What do you do to scare away workplace negativity and moodiness at this time of year?”

3. Fake it ’til you make it. If you can’t actually be upbeat and positive, act it. Given the right motivation, in many cases, we actually can push through our moodiness, e.g. you’re cranky with a colleague, then the phone rings–it’s a very special client on the other end of the line or your most favourite person in the whole world. You answer the phone (sweet as pie), chat, laugh a little and take care of the caller’s business. Then, after you’ve shifted to a “faked” cheeriness for your caller’s sake, you hang up, only to resume your crankiness with your colleague??? If we can turn off our moodiness for a professional moment, we can turn it off altogether. Period. Decide to set or reset your internal February-mood-o-meter from “blah” to “bright”, regardless of who or what is getting on your nerves.

4. Read or re-read Richard Carlson’s, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff or Elaine St. James’, Simplify Your Work Life: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More time to Live. Or any other book that inspires rethinking of your perspective on workplace blahs and stresses (including my very own, Getting Passion Out of Your Profession: How to keep loving your living…come what may–which comes complete with a heart on the cover and a couple of extra surprises, too, when ordered during this perfectly themed month of the heart and Valentine’s Day; see below to order one copy for your own reference, or many at bulk-rate pricing for your whole team, branch, family or friends).

5. Read it. Listen to it. Watch it. Laugh. What am I talking about? Humour. As age old as this suggestion is, laughing–despite it all–is still the best medicine for deflecting negativity. A line in an old 1970’s, King Harvest song (“Dancin’ in the Moonlight”), states, “You can’t dance and stay up tight”. Well, you can’t laugh and stay uptight, either!

6. Figure out what’s really bugging you right now. Is it reeeally February or mid-winter blahs, or could it be something else? Ask the right, “Why” questions and then, rather than staying stuck on those, “Whys”, focus on the “Whats”…as in, “So, what am I going to do about this?/What action am I going to take to get unstuck or move forward?” Taking some action–even the smallest steps of movement–on issues causing your moodiness or problems will help melt away your blahs.

7. Consume chocolate. Hot, cold, doesn’t matter which, just get some! Get out of your recession-era, fretful, nose-to-the-grind-stone mid-February workplace rut and rhythm and go somewhere…on your own, with a few colleagues or as a whole team….for a group chocolate break!. Try bundling up on a sunnier and milder of these last of winter days and have an outdoor team hot chocolate break. Sounds crazy? If your workplace location and geographics allow, all the more reason! Alternately, plan a mid-afternoon, mid-week in-doors hot chocolate break for everyone (with lots of whipped cream), right there in your own office. Ask different people to bring the cocoa, milk, whipped cream (low fat to ease the guilt), cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles, and remember those oh-so-important long parfait style spoons, too! Start or finish off your next team meeting with this whimsical and fun treat. Energized employees and teams–especially during trying times–are happier and more productive employees.

8. Arrange a team movie night sometime before the Oscars on February 22nd. Plan to see one of the nominated front running flicks (or one of the dark-hose long shots). To this day I still recall with great fondness, the evening my whole old work team gathered for a Forrest Gump movie night. We all howled with laughter before, during and long after; and generated an embarrassing bunch of wet hankies, too. That memorable evening was a truly fun and effective team bonding experience.

9. Plan (or request) a spring staff professional development event to which your team or branch can look forward. Whether it’s a formal, All-Branch Forum/Town Hall, Lunch & Learn, PD workshop, Admin Professionals’ Day or Staff Appreciation event, start the planning now. Successful staff events need at least 4 to 6 weeks of planning (if not more), and the planning and anticipation generated by such an event will create a beacon of light to carry employees through to spring. Remember, “A change (in routine) is as good as a rest.”

10. Write a heartfelt Valentine to yourself. Make a list of your top ten best professional qualities and traits–don’t be shy. Praise and admire yourself for a moment, and throw in a couple of promises to yourself for this year, too. Mail your letter to yourself. When it returns, tuck it away, unopened, until you need a lift on a particularly rough workday.

11. Buy mini–daffodils in a pot for your desk or someone else’s. Print Wordsworth’s, “Daffodils” poem to go alongside, to inspire and remind both yourself and others that spring really is just around the corner.

12. Start the workplace “Generosity Game”. It begins with a card inviting you to do a good deed for another–anonymously. You then pass the card on, which invites the kindness recipient to perform a random act of kindness for someone else. Download and print the cards at the Generosity Game website: http://www.generosity.org, if you like. This site also gives more details on the game and champions imagination on creative ways to make the world–workplace and otherwise–a little nicer.

13. Set up a workplace Maple Syrup Celebration and then tie that celebration in with a Pancake Day at work on February 24th. Bring along plenty of good ‘ole Canadian maple syrup, (now running from a maple tree near you!). Flapjacks can be served up “no-strings-attached” or at a small fee for a worthy February-type cause such as your local Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Bottom line is this: finding ways to shrug off the February blahs and the nagging headlines of a lagging economy can be a simple proposition of mind-over- matter…and it makes good business sense, too! Create bright idea, multi-day workplace events and rituals of your own between now and March 21st to lighten “up, up, up” and beat those beckoning February blahs black and blue.

And remember this, above all:

…only 33 days until spring!

For oft, when on my couch I lie (in February–my special “add-in” words!)
In vacant or in pensive mood (or full of the blahs—more of my add-ins),
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

–The Final Stanza (shamelessly modified by me!) of
William Wordsworth’s 1804 “Daffodils”

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