Georgina Whitmore, Head of Talent at Shieldpay, offers a few tips for supporting your mental health and wellbeing this Blue Monday
Today is the third Monday of January. Like many Mondays, it’s not the greatest day of the week nor the month, or year. Back in 2005, a psychologist determined that today of all Mondays was the ‘most depressing day of the year’.
This psychologist was hired by a travel company to help them with a PR stunt. His ‘calculations’ generated what we now call Blue Monday, and the idea was used by the company to help their campaign to sell more January holidays.
There were a number of factors involved in his non-scientific calculation. He considered things such as how the days are shortest in January, the weather is particularly gloomy, we may be facing financial implications of the holidays, we could feel more stress at work or disappointment from our New Year’s resolutions, and how Mondays are the most dreaded day of the week.
There is some truth in this, our mood and wellbeing can be affected by external elements such as our environment, exposure to light and sources of stress. January can be a particularly challenging time because of these factors. We do tend to spend less time outside or socialising, put pressure on ourselves to go after new goals for the year and feel the repercussions of last year. It is worth emphasising here that feeling less positive this time of the year is normal for so many of us and a natural response to coming down from the highs of the holidays, entering a period of reflection and experiencing the change of the season.
It is important to highlight, however, that many mental health experts say that Blue Monday should not be associated with depression as it can be seen as trivialising the mental illness. As The Mental Health Foundation has said, “it is important to distinguish between temporarily feeling down, which we all relate to from time to time, and experiencing depression or a mental health problem that can be quite disabling for our day to day lives”.
This day should rather be a reminder to reflect on the importance of our mental health and wellbeing, and the steps we should take every day to protect it and support those around us.
Here are just five ideas of small steps to supporting yourself and those close to you:
- Get outside
While the temperatures may be plummeting and the chances of rain higher this time of the year, we should be stepping outside and seeing the light of day when possible. Even a rainy or cloudy day will provide your body the light it needs. Biologically speaking, Vitamin D is important for regulating your body and natural light increases your serotonin levels to help improve your mood.
- Consider your diet
The festive period tends to be a time of indulgence. We all have a few too many glasses of wine or mince pies. It can be difficult to cut back on this immediately, especially when there are left over Celebrations still on the kitchen counter but aim to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to give your body the nutrition it needs.
- Prioritise sleep
Sleep is a hugely powerful factor in our mental health. To increase your quality of sleep, consider introducing more activity and exercise into your day and reduce your screentime before bed.
- Take time for yourself
It is important to take time out of your day or your week to focus on being kind to yourself. This could be time alone, maybe reading, meditating (using a wellbeing app such as Calm), having a walk, or it might be to spend time with loved ones. At Shieldpay, we have an allocated mental health day for our colleagues to take once a month when they need to step away from their desk and have time to themselves to refresh and recharge.
- Reach out to your friends, family or colleagues
Staying connected with others has been particularly challenging over the past few years during the pandemic. Due to restrictions and working from home, many of us haven’t been able to spend as much time surrounded by our friends, family or colleagues. Take some time out of your day or week for even just a 5 minute phone call to catch up with someone, or a quick text message to say you're thinking of them.
If you are struggling or need some extra support, please see below for useful websites and helplines provided by specialised mental health charities.
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm).