Hello 2021! Hello Lockdown…

January blues is a phenomenon which strikes us every year. The excitement of Christmas is over, it’s cold and everyone’s going back to the boring life of work and school. But this January brings even more difficulties as we start this new year with a whole new lockdown and still so much uncertainty about the year to come.

Normally, the new year is a time for making resolutions: to drink less, travel more, go vegan, et cetera et cetera. The resolutions typically collapse around the end of January as the shiny new year becomes just another regular year (my resolution to lose weight seems more like an ancient ritual at this point than something I believe I’ll actually do!) But 2020 was a difficult year for everyone and even though the end seems to be in sight, we still have a tough journey ahead. So, coming up with strict resolutions to stick to might just make you feel more pressured and stressed. Therefore, we at Printed by Us think that you should make this the year that you finally focus on yourself and your own mental well-being for a change.

A good way of improving your mental health is through Meditation. According to Dr Andrew Newberg, an American neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, “the type of focusing involved in meditation activates the brain’s frontal lobe, which is involved in concentration, planning, speech and other executive functions like problem-solving.” This means that meditation improves your ability to perform mental tasks. But more than that, meditation can reduce the flow of stress-related hormones, which can improve your mood and lower rates of heart disease, insomnia, and depression. Just as running every day makes you a better runner, consistently meditating can improve your mind’s ability to carry life’s emotional cargo. At this point in time, it feels like Covid was not a part of our lives and there doesn’t seem to be much good news going around. Every new piece of information just seems to bring me down more! But meditation is a good way to help us remain positive and stress- free (well... ish) through these difficult and troubling times.

At Printed by Us, the mental well-being of our staff is our top priority and we facilitate a comprehensive and fully funded wellbeing programme for our team. With the first lockdown forcing us to shut, we had to think of new ways to keep our team mentally stimulated and happy. Consequently, we came across the app Calm which introduced us to meditation. Calm is an excellent app for beginners as they help you to understand what you’re doing and why, allowing you to practice it both in and out of the app. The meditations are organized into categories, including anxiety, stress, emotions, focus, relationships, and more, allowing you to choose which meditations work best for you. I think we’ve all met someone who meditates and tells you it’s easy if you just “focus your mind”. Bit vague. Plus, “focusing your mind” is not particularly easy when your mind is already full to bursting with the stresses of everyday lockdown life. Calm gives you focused and clear instructions on how you can decrease stress and improve your mood, and therefore it can be a really helpful starting point when first attempting meditation.

Another way we tried to help bolster our team’s mental well-being over lockdown was through Yoga. On a general level, Yoga can make people feel calmer and more content, but it can also have a positive impact on some mental illnesses. In 2013, researchers from Duke University Medical Centre published a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders, aiming to explore the claims that yoga can help relieve mental illness. The team reviewed more than 100 studies on the effect of yoga on mental health. They concluded that yoga does in fact have positive effects on depression and sleep problems, and it improves the symptoms of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD among patients using medication. Some of the studies included in the analysis even suggested that yoga might affect the body in ways similar to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

However, one of the best effects of yoga is its ability to reduce stress. Stress can have a really unhealthy affect on our body, causing sleep problems, difficulties concentrating, and even physical pain like headaches and neck ache. But Yoga is very affective in relaxing the mind and creating coping mechanisms to reach a more positive outlook on life.

At Printed by Us, we use a local business called Moga to practice yoga. They use yoga as a means to improve the physical and mental health of men in Sheffield and elsewhere. There is a lot of stigma behind men’s mental health and many men feel like they can’t come forward due to the pointless propagation of toxic masculine ideas that men expressing emotion isn’t “manly”. Over lockdown, many men have struggled and felt unable to talk about it. Moga seeks to change that by creating a safe environment for men to relax and deal with their own mental health. Plus, there are plenty of other yoga businesses offering videos to help you through lockdown and finding one for you won’t be too tricky.

However, if you don’t feel up to meditation or yoga at this point in time, there are many other little things you can do to stay sane for another year. Just going on daily mindful walks can have a really positive impact on our mental health. For one, it gets you out of the house. There were lots of jokes at the start of lockdown about people doing zoom calls in their underwear and week-long pyjama days. And for some of us I’m sure that became a very real reality! However, I found that going for walks and getting fresh air really improved my mood, especially if you allow yourself to engage with your senses, noticing the sounds, smells and sights of the world around you.

Another way to practice mindfulness is by not judging yourself too harshly for seeking small acts of comfort. It’s a difficult time, and while it is always important to stay healthy and fit and all that jazz, maybe don’t judge yourself too harshly for eating that slice of chocolate cake or watching that rom com when there’s washing to do or buying that top you really like (even if you can’t wear it out anywhere!) Allow yourself to indulge in some little luxuries, this is a tough time for us all and no one can blame you for seeking out a little extra happiness.

So, let’s make this the best year it can be by supporting each other and ourselves. Just taking a little time out of your day to really focus on yourself can make the world of difference and improve those Covid January blues.

However, if things do get too difficult and you start to struggle, don’t feel afraid to get help. We’ve attached some numbers at the bottom of people you can call if Lockdown does start to bring you down, as it has done to so many people.

·       Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 12

·       SANEline. If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000

·       The Mix. If you're under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994

·       Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, you can call the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58