After the buzz and good cheer of the festive season, January can feel like one long and exhausting slog.
Researchers have dubbed January 16th as ‘Blue Monday’ or the most depressing day of the year.
It’s dark and cold outside, summer is nowhere in sight, morale is at an all time low and pay day still seems like miles away. People tend to be at their loneliness, most unmotivated and cash-strapped.
Now more than ever is the time to be kind to yourself and others, to practice self-care and mind your mental and physical wellbeing.
Here are some tips to help you get through Blue Monday and beyond.
In the new year, instead of thinking of all the obstacles in your way, try focusing on the good things and people you have in your life. Taking time out to notice simple pleasures and practice gratitude, can give us a more positive outlook in life, make us more resilient, strengthen the relationships we have and help reduce stress.
Be kind to yourself
We can often be our worst critics – that voice inside our head that tells us ‘not good enough’ or ‘you’ll never achieve that’. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat a dear friend in the same situation and show yourself just as much compassion.
January can be a long, hard month, full of new resolutions and pressure to be a ‘better’ you. This race to self-improvement can feel exhausting, so don’t forget to take some time to relax. Make time for yourself, allow yourself to slow down and simply be. If you’re trying something new, don’t put yourself under pressure to master it in record time. Instead, take the time to enjoy this new learning process. If you’re feeling stressed, simply taking a nice, deep breath can really help.
Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
Being active lifts our mood, reduces stress and anxiety, improves our physical health, and gives us more energy. Get outside, preferably in a green space or near water. Find an activity you enjoy doing, and just enjoy it. Also, taking up a hobby or a new skill will do much to increase your confidence, and may even lead to new friendships or career opportunities.
Get involved with a community project, charity work, or simply help out someone you know.
As well as benefiting others, you’ll be doing something worthwhile which will help you feel better about yourself. Helping others will put your own concerns into perspective. It’ll boost self-esteem and encourage a more positive outlook in life.
It may sound cliche, but a healthy body really does nurture a healthy mind, and vice versa. It may be dark and cold outside and comfort eating is all too tempting, but resisting fast food and those sugar cravings will go a long way to combatting the winter blues. Eat regularly, don’t skip breakfast, eat healthily, and stay hydrated.
Get into a healthy sleep routine – including going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Connect with others
Stay in touch with family and friends – make regular and frequent contact. If you’re struggling with your mental wellbeing, January can feel like a never-ending slog. If this is the case, please do ask for help. Talking to a counsellor can really help if you’re feeling depressed, anxious or stressed. You’re never alone.
See the bigger picture
We all see situations differently from our perspective and give different meanings to reality as we understand it. Broaden out your perspective and consider the bigger picture.
- What meaning am I giving this situation?
- Is this fact or opinion?
- How would others see this situation?
- What is another way of looking at this?
- How important is it, right now – or how important will it be in 6 months time?
- What can I do right now that will help most?
We tend to fight against distressing thoughts and feelings, but we can learn to just notice them and let them be. These thoughts can come and go. We don’t have to believe and grab onto each thought, but accept that we simply can’t change some situations. We can surf those waves rather than try to stop them. Allow those thoughts and sensations just to be – they will pass.
MyMind Centre for Mental Wellbeing has centres in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and provide multilingual counselling and psychotherapy services. Fees are based upon employment status, offering the unemployed or students affordable services. Revenue generated from full fee clients is reinvested, enabling us to provide services to all. Clients self-refer and appointments are within 72 hours. Call 076 680 1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org