The third Monday of January marks Blue Monday, otherwise known as the "most depressing day of the year."
While there is no scientific evidence to suggest any one calendar date is gloomier than others, many of us experience lower moods while coming off the excitement of holiday celebrations, paying our credit card bills, struggling with new year resolutions, and experiencing the colder and darker weather.
While it’s normal to experience negative emotions, we can minimize these and enjoy more positive feelings by focusing on what we can control and less on what we can't. Similar to how we empty, clean, and sort our waste as best practices for curbside collection and preservation of the environment, we can empty our negative emotions, clean our physical and mental spaces, and organize our thoughts and feelings to improve our mental health.
Here are some tips to help battle the winter blues.
First and foremost, we need to listen to what our bodies are saying and address our basic needs.
If your job is labour-intensive, you might need to take more breaks to hydrate and prevent your body from overexertion. If you’re sitting all day at work, you should also hydrate and take breaks to get up, move around, and prevent muscle aches from being in the same position for a prolonged period of time.
Outside of the workplace, it is good to get in the habit of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Nourish your body with all four food groups throughout the day, keeping healthy snacks on hand for when your energy begins to dip. Regular exercise has been proven to boost our energy levels, reduce stress, and make us stronger while preventing health problems.
We are often our own worst critics, and stress can heighten our worries and negative thoughts. Therefore, whether you are at work or home, be mindful of yourself in the present moment. How are you feeling? Does your body need anything? Should you continue what you’re doing or move on to another task?
Being kind to yourself isn’t always easy, but we can challenge our negative thoughts to help us find value in ourselves and our lives. Identify your negative thoughts, how these thoughts make you feel, and whether there is any evidence to support these thoughts. Oftentimes, you will find that you’re just being hard on yourself. Take some extra time out of your day to practice positive affirmations – what are you most grateful for? What was the highlight of your day? What are you most proud of yourself?
While energy levels are impacted by the health of your body and mind, they are also affected by the people you surround yourself with.
It’s not always about whether someone is a bad influence, rather whether the person matches your energy in certain situations. You may find that being around select individuals drains your energy rather than boosting it, so it’s up to you to take time for yourself to recharge your social batteries and protect your energy.
We often get so caught up in our busy lives that we rarely slow down or stop to reflect on our thoughts or feelings. Choosing to slow down can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and/or depressive thoughts.
Whether you are in the workplace or at home, it is important to set realistic goals that help you achieve your larger, overall goal. Break down your projects into smaller steps to help you have a clear roadmap for achieving your goals, feel more accomplished, and pace yourself. Many people find journaling can be a great outlet for seeing your goals on paper and writing your thoughts or feelings alongside.
We’re living during a global pandemic, and while we try to keep busy to distract ourselves from this fact, it is important that we slow down to ground ourselves in our goals, thoughts, and feelings. If you’re someone who wants to “come out of the pandemic better than they went in,” you should definitely take some time for yourself.
While we blame winter for the blues, embracing the season can help us find its enjoyable moments. Bundle up and go outside for a winter walk with your family or friends or take up a winter sport like hockey or skiing.
The break from the monotony of your daily routine can help you break the winter blues because you can try something different that will help you feel like you are no longer in a rut. Even the simplest activity, like watching a new TV show, can help take your mind away from your stressors and get you excited to mix up your routine.
Everyone’s needs are different - it all comes down to finding moments and methods of reconnecting with yourself and the things that make you happy to have a healthy mindset. Having said this, these activities should not only be practiced on Blue Monday but also the other 364 days of the year to foster a healthy lifestyle.
For Canadian helplines, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html#a1
For Michigan helplines, please visit: https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73970_8994---,00.html