Mental health & wellbeing: What is Blue Monday and tips to get through it
Award-winning writer Debbie Woodliffe, Head of Content and Outreach, Affinity Agency tells us everything we need to know about Blue Monday. Includes practical ways to support your mental health year-round including tackling imposter syndrome and avoiding burn-out.
From long cold nights to post-Christmas credit card bills, January can be a miserable and gloomy month for many of us. That’s why in this article, we’ll look at:
- Everything you need to know about Blue Monday
- Top tips for beating the January blues
- Ways to support your mental health year-round
Ready to get proactive and tackle those negative feelings head-on? Keep reading and find out how…
What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday is considered the most miserable day of the year and falls on the 16th of January in 2023. The third Monday of the month seems to mark a particularly depressing time for many of us - the weather is dire and gloomy, bank accounts are empty, and our bodies are recovering after a period of over-indulgence.
The term Blue Monday was coined in 2005 by a travel company that claimed they used a series of equations to calculate the date. Some say there are far gloomier days in January, but most agree that the first year of the month can be depressing for many reasons.
So, if you tend to suffer a miserable Monday in January, there are a few things you can do to make things a little easier and set yourself up for a happy and restorative day instead:
- Plan ahead - whether you choose to spend the day relaxing and watching your favourite shows or going to work and getting productive, make an achievable routine you can stick to. This will minimise the chance of you getting stuck in bed, ruminating on negative thoughts and making yourself feel even worse.
- Get a good sleep - set yourself up for a positive day by ensuring you get enough sleep the night before. Before you go to bed, take the time to wind down and relax by running a warm bath, drinking chamomile tea or reading a book.
- Eat well - give your body the love and nutrients it needs by planning tasty and nutritious meals. Not only will this set your body up for a good day ahead, but cooking can be relaxing as it gives your mind something healthy to focus on.
- Spend time with others - chances are if the weather and time of year are making you feel miserable, those around you are probably struggling too. Why not go out and do something fun, such as taking a long stroll around the park or booking an activity-packed day out?
How to beat the January blues and more
Much like Blue Monday, the January blues come down to seasonal factors such as short, dark days, miserable weather, financial difficulties after Christmas and a lack of sunlight. January is also the peak time of year for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can cause depression, anxiety and other uncomfortable symptoms.
A term used interchangeably with the January blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) causes similar symptoms of mild to moderate depression, including difficulties with sleeping, lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, changes in appetite and more.
During the autumn and winter months, the drop in sunlight can cause the brain to produce less serotonin - a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood regulation, appetite, sleep and memory.
So, how do you beat SAD/January blues? It’s important to try and offset the lack of sunlight which is a key culprit when it comes to seasonal mood disorders. Try to get outdoors as much as possible, especially at times when the meagre sunlight is at its peak.
Even though imposter syndrome isn’t directly related to seasonal mood disorders, you may find things at work get a little more difficult during gloomy periods, making imposter syndrome even worse. Common symptoms of imposter syndrome include:
- Doubting your abilities at work
- Feeling afraid of being ‘outed’
- Not feeling good enough
- Feeling like a fraud or a fake
Despite positive reviews or producing good work, those suffering from imposter syndrome can feel convinced that they are inadequate. Instead of succumbing to negative thoughts, accept that this is a natural part of being a caring and conscientious person. Instead, turn your focus to self-care during this stressful period. You can also delegate your workload to others to reduce the pressure, take regular breaks, seek support from your manager and take some time off to recharge.
Burnout at work
Thanks to the stresses of modern life, burnout at work is becoming an ever more common problem. As people in January struggle with finances and stress, burnout at work can seriously take a toll - even after the Christmas break. Common symptoms of burnout include:
- Lack of energy or interest in work
- Feeling stressed, emotional or exhausted
- Avoiding tasks or procrastinating
- Becoming withdrawn
It’s worth noting that these symptoms can overlap with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), however, burnout tends to relate specifically to work.
To tackle burnout, it’s important to address the root cause of the problem. Perhaps you’re unhappy with the company culture, or maybe you’re facing an unachievable workload. Whatever the cause, it’s time to take action and ask your manager to help you make reasonable adjustments.
If adjustments don’t make the situation any better, consider speaking to a therapist or mental health professional to help you deal with your emotions. They can also help you devise a practical plan to face your work-related woes.
How to support year-round mental wellbeing
Sort out your sleep
Lack of sleep is commonly associated with poor mental health, mood disorders and a lack of energy. Your brain needs to go through several stages of sleep each night to maintain proper function and to leave you waking up feeling refreshed and recharged. To get the best night’s sleep possible, you should:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each night
- Take 1-2 hours before bed to wind down
- Ensure your mattress is still comfortable
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Avoid using tech at least 2 hours before bed
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can lead to insomnia, so if your sleep is disturbed regularly or you no longer feel rested, you should visit your doctor for help.
Exercise is essential for mood regulation thanks to boosting those feel-good chemicals in the body. But when you’re feeling gloomy or depressed, it can be tricky to get out of the front door.
Make realistic goals to help get you started, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk around the block. It will help increase your exposure to sunlight which is beneficial for treating SAD, and the fresh air and nature around you will help to shift your focus away from thoughts.
Mindfulness can be an extremely useful tool when it comes to a wide range of mood disorders or to give yourself a moment of peace among the hustle and bustle of life. The goal of mindfulness is simple - shifting your focus from your thoughts to your senses.
You can practice mindfulness anywhere and spend as little or as much time on it as you’d like. Shift your focus to the things you can hear, see, smell, feel and taste. Notice all of the little details of what’s going on around you without passing judgement.
Staying in the present moment during times of sadness, stress, or depression can help to show your brain that these situations aren’t as scary as initially thought. Try it for yourself - take a step back to observe the present moment as it truly is for 5 minutes and see how you feel afterwards.
Now you know how to beat the Monday Blues, SAD, imposter syndrome and burnout with just a few simple tips and life adjustments, so you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time at all. Which technique will you try first?
Debbie Woodliffe, Head of Content and Outreach, Affinity Agency