EVEN in normal times, January is already a tough time of year for many, as cold weather bites and the days are short.

But after an incredibly difficult 2020 and amid a third national lockdown, this month feels tougher than ever.

Today is also the third Monday in January, dubbed “Blue Monday” - supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

The theory is we feel less motivated - possibly after failing to keep to New Year’s Resolutions - and Christmas feels like a distant memory.

READ MORE: Hove writer shares inspiring lockdown tales

And this year, millions of people are also dealing with stress and grief caused by the pandemic, as it impacts on all areas of life.

The Argus:

We spoke to mental health charity Mind about practical ways to reduce stress during the crisis.

Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said: “These are challenging times for us all, especially when restrictions are put in place which might prevent us being able to do the things that normally help us stay well, like seeing loved ones.

“But there are self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes which can help improve your wellbeing and even prevent mental health problems developing or worsening.”

Keep active

Under current restrictions people are allowed to exercise outdoors once a day, and Mr Buckley said it is crucial to keep active.

He said: “Exercise releases feel-good hormones such as serotonin and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

"Even if you don’t have exercise equipment at home, there are still options for most ages and abilities, including dancing, using the stairs or online classes.”

The Argus: India and Megan at Vibe Tribe, who run online dance parties in BrightonIndia and Megan at Vibe Tribe, who run online dance parties in Brighton

India Phillips runs Vibe Tribe online dance workshops with Megan Jupp in Brighton, including private parties.

She said: “Dance brings so many benefits to your wellbeing. As well as being fun, it kicks those endorphins in and gets the blood going.

“The main thing for us is also meeting people - even if it is virtual.”

Stay connected

Mr Buckley added it is important to connect with others, within the lockdown restrictions.

He said: “If you’re feeling low or anxious, you might feel like withdrawing from those around you, and it can be difficult to reach out to loved ones.

The Argus:

“Try to stay connected with friends and family – whether that’s over email, text, phone or video calling software such as Zoom or FaceTime.”

Don't let work take over

With many people now working from home and juggling jobs with childcare and home-schooling, Mr Buckley said it is more important than ever to ensure you have a clear work-life balance.

He said: “Make sure you take at least a 30-minute lunch break, ideally getting outside for some exercise, if you can.

“At the end of the working day, turn off your computer and any other devices so you’re not tempted to check work emails and try to take your mind off work by doing something else.”

Get some nature into your day

Although January weather can be less inviting, getting outside into nature can boost the mood.

The Argus: Photo: Simon DackPhoto: Simon Dack

Mr Buckley said: “If possible, get some nature into your day.

"In winter when light levels are low, get outside in daylight hours if you can - even small amounts of vitamin D can help with our mood.

SEE ALSO: Coronavirus: Can you walk your dog during lockdown?

“Take a walk to a nearby park, river or green space and make the most of any outside space you may have, such as a garden.

"Something as simple as looking after an indoor pot plant can help.”

Mind in Brighton and Hove has recently launched its Winter Walking challenge.

For more information, visit mindcharity.co.uk.