Beating the Beckoning (Workplace) Blahs

How’s the colour on your nose this month? Your cheeks? Red enough for ya? In Canada the majority of us are seeing “red” because of all that “white,” and some of us are blue because of it, too! We’re not necessarily feeling–as the old rock and roll group The Dave Clark Five sang, “Glad all over”– during this month of February, but rather, red, white and blue.

Consider newspaper headlines such as: “What I did on my lay off,” “Tough Luck, “”Thanks for ruining the economy, mom,” “Yesterday’s bad news is priced in, but what about tomorrow’s?” and “Survey says we’re stressed and can’t cope.”

February “blahs” can get the best of even the most physically and emotionally fortified. But consider musing this alternative headline instead, “Dark days call for only one thing: optimism.” So there’s hope? Sure there is.

February may have the bum rap as being the only month of the twelve with the “blahs” label attached to it, 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 compared to the others, 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/Waitangi Day
  • February 14th Valentine’s Day
  • February 15th National Flag of Canada Day (since 1965)
  • February 16th (Canadian) Family Day & USA’s President’s Day
  • February 17th Yum! Pancake Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday)
  • February 22nd Thinking Day (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts)
  • February 25th People Power Day (Philippines)
  • And my brand new favourite: Kissing Friday (UK; always the Friday after Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday, therefore, this year, February 20th. This celebration day is more historic than actually celebrated now. As the tradition goes, Kissing Friday was enthusiastically celebrated by English schoolboys, who were entitled to kiss girls without fear of punishment or rejection. This custom apparently lasted until at least the 1940s however, a quick call to my retired aunt and uncle in England, determined that they have no personal recollection. I’ve now issued them both an assignment to interview a sampling of fellow citizens over 70 and see what they can report back!)

Maybe a bit more fun and (appropriate) collegial workplace support 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’s to boot, can you relate to these condensed UP! lyrics?:

shania twain up album cover

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 12 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 conversation 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 or a spouse, etc., 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??? What’s that all about? 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 (LOL, including my very own, A Time to Creep, A Time to Soar: Lessons learned for work and life from climbing Kilimanjaro; or 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 really February 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 “What”… 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 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 or team meeting. Sounds crazy? If your workplace location and geographics allow, all the more reason! Alternatively, 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). Maybe see the uplifting Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game. And, although tougher to watch, personally, I found the movie Selma powerfully inspirational as well (I left the theatre wanting to DO better and BE better in my life. Imagine if all your team members left an event feeling that way?) To this day I still recall with great fondness, the evening my whole old work team gathered for a Forrest Gump movie night before the Oscars. We all howled with laughter, and were deeply touched, 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, April Admin Professionals’ Day or Staff Appreciation event, start the planning now. Successful staff events need at least four to six weeks of planning (if not more), and the planning and anticipation generated by such an event can create a beacon of light to carry employees through to spring and clean on to the autumn. Remember, “A change (in routine) is as good as a rest.”

10. Write a heartfelt Valentine to yourself this week. Make a list of your top ten best professional qualities and traits, and don’t be shy. Praise and admire yourself for a moment, and throw in a couple of promises to yourself for this year too. Snail-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. Set up a workplace Maple Syrup Celebration (and tie that celebration in with a Pancake Day at work on Tuesday, February 17th, if you can whip up such a gathering in a big hurry!). Bring along plenty of good ‘ole Canadian maple syrup, (now, or soon to be, 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 rise above February blahs, and nagging or worrisome news headlines, 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 (the calendar first day of spring) to lighten “Up, up, up” (as Shania reminds), and beat those beckoning February blahs.

daffodils

And remember this, above all:

…only 40 days and 40 nights until spring!

For oft, when on my couch I lie

[in February]
In vacant or in pensive mood
[or full of the blahs]
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth’s 1804 Daffodils

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