Blue Monday, which this year falls on 21 January 2019, is said to be the most depressing day of the year. Many of us may struggle with feeling low and lethargy as we head back to work and await the end of the long, cold nights.
It’s no wonder that many of us struggle emotionally in January. Not only is it the peak season for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s also become a month of austerity and gruelling fitness regimes as we battle to compensate for the excess of December. We might experience grumpiness, lack of energy and insomnia. With going back to work as one of the main factors, it’s important that you keep upbeat and positive but you can take steps to help:
Spend your lunch break outside
It might be cold, but there’s no reason to bury yourself inside, at a desk, all day every day. Sunlight and fresh air can have amazing benefits for health and well-being, boosting levels of vitamin D and serotonin and helping to de-stress. Wrap up warm, plan for the winter weather and go for a walk, bike ride or jog.
Try new things
January can often be a time when we feel stuck in a rut. Stimulate your creativity and imagination by trying something new, online or preferably in a group, whether that’s trampolining, chess or a language - tap into your childhood sense of exploration and wonder.
Hatch a plan
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself use January’s dull winter evenings to plan how you’re going to spend your year. This doesn’t have to be expensive holidays but plan things that are quickly achievable like getting involved in local events, weekend activities, outings and micro adventures.
Sort out your serotonin
Serotonin is an important chemical neurotransmitter that is thought to have a strong effect on our overall mood, well-being and sleep patterns. As well as being found in the brain, serotonin can also be found in the gut.
Consumption of alcohol and coffee or a poor diet could disrupt the production of serotonin. Not only that, but lack of sunlight could also contribute to disruption in serotonin production, so it’s no wonder that December could have left you feeling a little out of balance. Eat more fresh vegetables, fruits and oily fish to regulate your digestive system. Find a new healthy baking recipe and cook some healthy treats for the office for the week ahead.
Those long dark evenings don’t have to be bland and boring. The Danish word ‘hygge’ refers to moments in life that are particularly cosy, charming and cherished. Take a little time to freshen up your rooms, buy a new lamp and create a cosy mood. Turn your home into a Scandinavian haven and invite friends or colleagues over for a really good chat or put on a special viewing of a popular movie. Try not to get stuck in aimlessly channel hopping and wasting evenings wishing the hours away.
Recognise and understand your mood
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. They're typically most severe during December, January and February. Most cases of (SAD) will be relatively mild, but if you experience severe symptoms of SAD which are classified as those that seriously impact your daily life, you can get help:
- Lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels.
- Light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight.
- Talking therapies – recognising what SAD is, and how it affects you is a starting point. If it is having a serious impact, talk to your GP about counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling.
Don’t forget to smile and make a conscious choice to be and think positive. Be your best self for the first four minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. You’ll feel better and your brilliance will be infectious to those around you.