Monday 18th January 2021 is designated “Blue Monday” – no not a celebration of the now-classic song by New Order, but the day in the year when the combination of post-Christmas debt, dreadful weather and the lapse in our New Year’s resolutions combine to make us reach a peak of misery. And this year, more than most, many of us are starting to struggle with the huge impact that COVID-19 has had on the nation’s psyche.
The first bank holiday is weeks away. The approach of Valentines’ Day is ramping up the pressure on singletons to find true love, whilst some married couples have thrown in the towel and are headed for the divorce courts.
The seasonal fun and frolics of Christmas seem a very distant memory indeed.
The concept of “Blue Monday” was apparently coined by a travel company some years ago to push us into booking our summer holidays. Marketing has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it! Even Santa’s distinctive red robes were invented by Coca Cola.
Still, there is certainly some truth in the idea that having something like a holiday to look forward to is a great psychological tonic.
But, let’s be honest, shall we?
There’s a huge difference between feeling a bit down and ‘under the weather’ and truly suffering from depression, which some call the Black Dog.
Most of us, if we stop and think about it, can very quickly come up with a list of blessings, things to be grateful for, things that help us to celebrate living.
We can even, usually, come up with a list of solutions to those problems.
Spent too much? Talk to your bank manager about your overdraft. Consider consolidating your credit. Cut back on unnecessary expenditure.
Feeling bloated and unfit? You know what to do, don’t you? Take more exercise, eat better. The old hoary chestnuts of advice stand the test of time, don’t they?
Some of us suffer badly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight sends us spiralling into a winter depression.
The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and are typically most severe during December, January and February.
Symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability and feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day. Sufferers may find themselves sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning. They may also crave carbohydrates and gain weight
But there are things you can do about this, for example, light therapy. You can buy special lightboxes which replicate the effect of sunlight on the body. You can find more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy here.
The cure may obviously not be as simple or as instant as buying a lightbox. I am merely saying that, sometimes, if we take matters into our own hands, we feel better. Having some control over our problems makes us feel more empowered.
Most of us can find a way to lift ourselves out of the ‘Blue Monday Slump’. A little time out for reflection may help. Why not try mindful meditation? Calming your inner voice may help you recognise what is making you feel so discontented. It will certainly reduce your stress and improve your focus.
A long, hot, calming bath may also help perhaps with a herbal bath oil or a natural treatment such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy.
An early night will help. We are all guilty of TV channel surfing when we know we should be going to bed – or, my particular downfall, playing the ‘odd’ game of Candy Crush. One hour’s sleep before midnight is said to be worth two hours of sleep after midnight. Lack of sleep has been proven to have very real consequences to our health and mental wellbeing.
Make sure too, that your bed is as comfortable as possible so that you get a good night’s sleep. If your mattress is over 8 years old, the advice is to change it, but this can be done quickly and at a reasonable cost by searching for mattresses online.
It is important to recognise though, that if you feel things are really getting on top of you, or that you just cannot cope no matter what simple adjustments you make to your lifestyle, then you should talk to your GP.
There are also many organisations you can talk to, day or night, who can help you. You can find a list of some of them here.
So, if this Blue Monday you feel your outlook is less than sunny, take the opportunity to be a little bit kinder to yourself.
And a bit kinder to others.
We never know exactly what others are feeling. But by offering a few kind words, everyone’s day suddenly becomes a whole lot brighter.
And spring will be here before we know it.
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