Have you heard of Blue Monday? Our regular wellbeing columnist, Charlotte Willis is back with her latest contemplations about our winter psychological wellbeing.
This phrase is not another word to describe the start of the working week that comes our way after a sleepy, peaceful Sunday. Blue Monday falls on the third Monday in January every year and is the most challenging of Mondays for our psychological wellbeing.
On Blue Monday, the combination of post-festivity comedowns, dark winter nights, and the challenges of financial instability after an expensive December culminate, erupting in a cloud of low mood.
In general, winter months can put a strain on our mental resilience.
We may experience faster burn-out, changes in sleep, mood, and eating, low energy, and a lack of motivation to carry out regular activities. These changes can be managed effectively using self-care strategies, such as those mentioned below. However, should your (or someone you know) experience significantly impaired daily functioning or worsening of symptoms, I encourage you to seek guidance from a mental health professional.
How to tackle Blue Monday
Keep to a routine
It may sound trivial, but hear me out. A routine, once established, will enable you to maintain a sleep cycle, and balance your work commitments with self-care, boosting your overall productivity and motivation. Get out your planner and break your day into one-hour slots, scheduling your main goals, tasks, and activities for the day, as well as regular breaks for movement. As you complete your tasks, cross them off and big yourself up for doing something productive, no matter how small or large.
Use light therapy
Light therapy is useful for anyone who feels tired or experiences low mood during the winter months. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a lightbox, which simulates natural sunlight, for 30 mins to an hour every morning and early-evening as needed. Light therapy acts by increasing the amount of serotonin (a hormone that impacts your mood) whilst decreasing melatonin (a hormone that can induce tiredness). You can purchase light boxes in a range of sizes online.
Schedule in socializing
Retreating into our rooms, rarely reaching out to one another as we move from desk to bed is common in winter. Something which helped my friends and me during the winter lockdown was scheduling social time, and sticking to it. We’d set a date and time, and either meet for a walk or give each other a call. Just like those tedious re-occurring zoom calls, we’d make sure to check in once a week and have a catch up on life, love, and everything in-between.
Journal it down
I can’t recommend journaling enough. Never underestimate the power of putting pen to paper, exploring your thought patterns, behaviours, emotions, and daily actions. Start by reflecting upon your day, asking yourself what emotions did you express? Were there any challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them? What can you learn from today, and what could you improve upon?
Above all, keep in mind that winter is a trying time for everyone around you, even for those who, on the face of it, seem perfectly happy. Extend your loving-kindness and compassion to all this winter, and extend it upon yourself even more.
Read more of Charlotte’s contemplations here.