Blue Monday, generally considered to be the 3rd Monday in January as the most depressing day of the year (in the northern hemisphere at least), is fast approaching. This year it’s the 21st January.
It works on the basis that it’s been a few weeks since all the excitement and partying of Christmas, it’s not yet payday so financial pressures are on, credit card bills that are carrying the weight of all the Christmas overindulgence are coming through, New Year’s resolutions are failing, coupled with dark evenings and horrid weather, it’s all a perfect storm of misery and stress for a lot of people.
BUT it was actually just a publicity stunt by a travel agency trying to boost holiday sales in January and has absolutely no basis in any kind of scientific research. There is no increase in suicide rates, in fact, according to the centre for suicide prevention, it’s actually fairly consistent through the year with on a marginal spike in the spring/summer.
Myth debunked, back on topic.
Despite it being a marketing ploy, it does play on a lot of the stresses and pressures that many of us might be starting to feel as this month marches on, and it’s kind of caught on in the social psyche and become a bit of a thing.
Here are some of my top tips for managing your mental health when you start to feel yourself getting a bit on the blue side of life.
Cut the coffee (and the alcohol)
Actually caffeine in general. It’s a stimulant, it gets your heart going, it interferes with your sleep. If you’re having a stressful time, the anxiety is up that means the heart rate is up and you’re probably not sleep well. Just cut the caffeine. There’s no sense in taking on substances that are only exacerbating the physical symptoms!
Now if you’re a big coffee drinker as I used to be (12 cups a day at one point!) then cutting it out completely isn’t going to happen, actually it’s going to give you a raging headache that will last a few days…but I digress. Cut back on the caffeine, and don’t drink ANY coffee after lunch.
Swap it out for tea in the afternoon, and herbal teas later in the evening.
If you’re one of those energy drink drinkers, well just cut those out completely because as well as caffeine, they have a whole raft of other nastiness that’s doing you no good.
I’ve included alcohol on there because, as we all know, it’s a depressant. It’s easy for us to turn to a glass of wine or ‘a wee cheeky pint’ at the end of a ‘tough’ day, but it’s a slippery slope and alcohol is never the answer. To quote Reese Witherspoon in one of her fabulously cheesy chick flicks, “Never drink to feel better; only drink to feel even better”
Check your diet
Check in if you’re eating enough good stuff. I can be a total demon when it comes to my diet, especially when I start to get stressed. Chocolate, crisps, pastries, ready meals, lots of skipped meals then munching on rubbish. It’s one of the first things I check in on when the old headspace starts to get a bit murky.
Your body, your brain, your ability to think clearly, sleep, concentrate, make decisions…all the things that start to fall into the vicious circle of depression can be helped by checking in and working on the food you’re eating. Unfortunately, no matter how much I might try and tell myself, just because crisps and chips are made from potatoes, does not mean they count as a portion of veg for the day!
Singing is proven to reduce stress! It gets control of your breathing, it takes your mind off whatever is starting to stress you out, and it feels good to just blast out your own rock concert (or opera, or whatever floats your particular boat).
Put the music on when you’re in the shower and belt out some tunes; make your playlist and have a car-aoke time on the way to and from work if you drive; one of my personal favourite pick-me-up songs is “Call me Al”. Yes, you read that right. I bet you even have it in your head now and you’re feeling a little perkier! Go on, get your song on!
The tip here though, is you’ve really got to feel it. Get into the groove, and sing to your heart’s content. Literally, sing until your heart is content!
This one goes hand in hand with the singing, if you can sing AND dance, you’re on to a win. You’ve got all sorts of good things happening here, exercise making you feel good, and movement just generally being a great way to get the motivation going. I can be such a worrier that I can sit in the one spot thinking of all the things that are stressing me out, running through all the worst case scenarios, but just getting up and getting moving is a great way to snap yourself out of your head. So dance. A great big happy dance. And sing along too if you can.
If live alone, this is all super easy to do, no one to think you’ve lost the plot…and if you’ve got dogs like I do, it can be super hilarious and give you a good laugh too!
Have a family at home? Tell them that you’re singing and dancing as a way to manage your mental health and get them involved too! Kids in the house? Get them to pick a song each day and have a family sing and dance as you’re going through the breakfast routine – what a great example to be to your children as someone who recognises when life gets tough and starts to take action to mind your mental health.
Following on nicely from there, tell someone you’re struggling. You don’t have to tell the whole world, you don’t have to share it all on Instagram and Facebook or any other social platform, you don’t’ have to send an office wide email. But share with someone that you’re struggling a bit. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Sometimes, someone else will have a different perspective and might be able to give you some good tips and help you trouble shoot and come up with a plan, or maybe they’ll just listen. Getting it all out of your head and putting words on the worries can sometimes help you to see it all in a different light too.
If you don’t have someone you can talk to, someone you trust, there are a great many organisations around who can help. I list some at the end.
- What are some of the things you do to mind your mental health when you feel things starting to get a bit much?
- What are your favourite songs to sing and dance to that make you feel good?
- Let me know in the comments (I’d love to add more songs to my playlist!)
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, you should make contact immediately with one of the following:
- Phone or go to your local doctor
- Go to the Accident & Emergency department of the nearest hospital
- Call 999
If you live in Ireland Mental Health Ireland has a comprehensive list of agencies you can reach out to for help with all sorts of issues which might be impacting your mental health
If you life in Northern Ireland, Helplines Network NI is your go-to list
UK helplines here
Please add your local helpline details in the comments for those not in UK, NI or RoI.