Blue Monday Blues
Today (18 January 2021) is Blue Monday and, considering how this January has gone so far, things feel, to me at least, just a little bit harder than they normally do at this time of year. I don’t think I’m alone in having pinned all my hopes and dreams on a brighter 2021, just as I had foolishly done with 2020. I walked into last year thinking, “Well, roaring twenties, I’m ready for you!” with a plan to make it “my year” after a rather rough 2019, most of which I spent holed up in my one-bedroom apartment desperately trying to finish my thesis. Lo and behold, 2020 was not the year anyone wanted, I don’t think. The pandemic affected everyone I know in ways none of us were prepared for and continues to hold a dark cloud over large parts of the world.
I was, at least, somewhat prepared for another lockdown at the start of 2021. What I wasn’t prepared for was coming back to work the week a pro-Trump mob broke into the US Capitol Building and a state of emergency was declared in my hometown. Of course, this also meant that my two-week long social media break was over. Seeking out more information, I’ve not only spent many evenings glued to the news in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve also re-entered the cycle of what outlets have recently referred to as “doomscrolling.” Needless to say, these past couple of weeks have really affected my mental health.
Managing Digital Fatigue
I talked a lot about digital fatigue towards the end of 2020 and while my hope was that the holidays might give us all a chance to recharge our batteries a little, I, for one, am still exhausted. Judging by my conversations with friends and coworkers, I’m not the only one, either. So how do we press on and continue fighting the good fight when it’s so easy to become overwhelmed with all that’s happening?
I, for one, have found solace in learning. I may not have the headspace for much at the moment but, as a long-time student, there’s a part of me that’s comforted by reading and by practicing skills, because I know this is something I can control. I took a new online calligraphy course last weekend and I’ll be starting another one next week, so that’s where my joy and my rest lies. I know that more time in front of a screen may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have really enjoyed Zoom classes over the past few months and find the format extremely accessible.
If, like me, you’re a fan of online learning, I would highly recommend you check out LinkedIn Learning, too. Students and staff at the University of Edinburgh have free access to LinkedIn Learning and Andy on my team has done a fantastic job of curating mental health and wellbeing learning pathways for both staff and students, which we’ve tweeted about here:
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing – LinkedIn Learning collections now available for students & staff.
— UoE Digital Skills (@UoEDigiSkills) January 18, 2021
Do take a look at the resources linked in the Tweet. I know that we’re all tired and stressed and have been spending way too long in front of our computers, but I also think it’s important to separate screentime that gives you joy from screentime that depletes your energy levels. LinkedIn Learning, for me, at least, falls into the “joy” category. Plus I think it’s really important to take some time to learn strategies and techniques for resilience, motivation and stress-management right now. Yes, it’s another thing to add to your never-ending to-do list, but prioritising your wellbeing, both digital and mental, will give you more energy to tackle everything else in the long run.
Mental Health and Online Engagement Podcast
One last thing I wanted to highlight before this post gets too long is a conversation I had with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh just before Christmas, which Dr Joe Arton and Dr Cathy Bovill at the Institute for Academic Development kindly adapted into a two-part podcast in their Teaching Matters series.
In this two part podcast series we examine the impact of online engagement on student’s mental health. We explore the positive sides of online engagement, the downsides, the unintended consequences and what we can do to make things a little bit better.https://t.co/b7j5UKkyI9
— Teaching Matters (@UoE_Teaching) January 15, 2021
This discussion gave me a lot of hope. There are so many people who care so deeply about student (and staff!) mental health here at the University of Edinburgh and are actively developing new methods and strategies to support the wellbeing of our entire community. Please do give a listen if you can spare 10 minutes.
I’ll leave you now, dear reader. Happy learning and listening – I hope you’re doing okay today.