Blue Monday, purportedly the 16th of this month, and for future reference, the third Monday in January, cynically, is something that was made up to encourage people to buy holidays. I do not recommend any special measures in relation to this specific date. I do think, however, that it is an apt a time as any to talk about things such as low mood, stress and the many other emotional well-being issues that might be more figural in the Winter.
The Christmas break is over and done with, and whether you celebrate or not, the chances are that it has left its mark on your mental and physical state in more ways than one. Christmas can be a hard thing for many of us to get through. For those of us who were lucky enough to enjoy ourselves, that ‘enjoy’ might very well be euphemistic for over-indulgence. You might be drinking more than you normally would and eating more than you really should, and while these things might feel a comfort at the time, they take their toll! Even for those of us who don’t do Christmas, we still endure weeks of commercial hubbub, and maybe even some over-time to support the spike in annual leave for everybody else!
So, as we trudge through January, not completely rid of our Christmas baggage and with the summer months’ miles ahead, what can we do? Sky Travel will tell you to book a holiday. I also have some suggestions with minimal financial impact.
Of course, this isn’t always appealing when the rain is pouring and the wind is blowing. On a clear dry day though, wrap up and get outside. The combination of a natural inclination to stay indoors, along with the great British winter’s tendency towards low-hanging cloud means that we massively miss out on vitamin D. It’s not only some rare sunshine that will do you good. Even on the greyest days, a bit of fresh air, some gentle exercise, and some trees could do you the world of good. If a solo stroll seems a bit naff, there are apps to incentivise you with anything from a temporary canine companion, to digital monsters, or tracked achievements for you to post on social media. Many of these apps are free and are a great alternative to getting locked in to a gym contract that you may resent by February.
MAKE IMPROVEMENTS TO YOUR DIET
January is high season for dieting, but again – making a positive change to your diet doesn’t have to mean fad diets or subscription plans. Simply making an active decision to eat smaller portions and pile more fruit and veg on to your plate can give you a massive nutritional boost and get you moving a bit easier.
TAKE SOME TIME OUT JUST FOR YOU
December can be a struggle in so many ways. Hosting a Christmas for family and friends can be exhausting. Some of our family Christmases might be stressful or worse and many of us will find ourselves isolated, and further cut off from our usual support networks by transport strikes and the general unavailability of loved ones obliged elsewhere at Christmas time. While the opportunity for an extended break might not be an option, consider taking a long weekend to do things that support you to feel at your best. Perhaps you just need a few days in your pyjamas with nothing on the agenda. Maybe you need to get out of the house to go somewhere other than work. It can feel like there is so little room for small pleasures in daily life, and sometimes the only solution is to carve out this room for yourself.
SEE A COUNSELLOR
The new year can put one in a reflective mood, for better or worse. While many of the suggestions above might make small or big differences to how you’re feeling this January, counselling is always an option. It doesn’t matter whether you feel like you just have the blues or if you have reoccurring feelings or patterns that you might like to explore; seeing a counsellor can allow you some time free from daily obligations, and is confidential. Sometimes, I come to my counsellor with a specific thing I would like to explore, other days there might feel like there’s not much to talk about. But you can guarantee I will still fill the time, and that often, the times when I feel like I have nothing to bring turn in to some of the most useful sessions!
Whatever you’re bringing with you to 2017, the things you like and what you would like to change, there are so many ways to take manageable, positive steps to get off to the right start. Remember, improvement doesn’t always have to mean big promises and massive change. It can be as simple as taking some time to be kind to yourself.