So after last week and my feelings about the inappropriate use of the phrase “The Blues,” it’s actually “Blue Monday” today. This is a day assigned by Dr Cliff Arnall formerly of Cardiff University when statistically the most amount of people are likely to be depressed, and apparently, this year it might be even worse than usual! Thank you, world politics. Sigh.
So how to deal with it? One option is to curl up and hibernate the day away. Very tempting. A big duvet, a Netflix account, and unlimited Oreos are all I need. Bliss. However, this is not an option for all of us, and I often find that Blue Monday falls within a month when everyone is likely to be experiencing low mood. As much as I would like to hibernate January away, alas, it cannot be so. So here are some of my tips to take on Blue Monday and what I would like to rename as Jarring January because it came out of nowhere and I feel like I have whiplash from 2016. I can’t be the only one.
1. Give yourself structure
When life seems a bit crappy and the horizons of your life seem bleak, having structure can be a real saving grace. Having structure is what allows you to get from the beginning of the day to the end of the day without having a crisis. When those invasive, gloomy thoughts emerge, having structure is what helps you put them aside, at least for the moment. No judgement on what that structure is, either. For some people it will be getting a 5 am run in before your full-time job, for others, it will be making sure that they get up out of bed and make themselves a cup of tea at least once a day. We are all at different points in our lives and structure can mean many different things. For me, it means a bullet journal and small routines around the house that help me feel in control. For me, it is trying to blog once a week, and keeping on top of my work. For me, it is trying to get out of the house every day. Don’t use this tip as a stick to beat yourself with – I don’t know where you are and what your structure looks like, only you can know that. You do you.
2. Put happy things in your diary
For a short month, January sure seems to drag! It seems long, poor, and grey. (Especially if you live in the UK. Especially if you live in the north of England. ESPECIALLY if you live in Manchester.) There’s a reason that you can’t flick a channel or click a link without seeing a holiday advert in January. Who doesn’t want to escape the drained bank accounts, walking to work in the rain, and the general malaise that seems to fall across the nation? Some people are economically placed so that they can head off on holiday in January, and if I ever can then I will too, but I can’t right now. So I compensate by putting happy things in the diary. Family coming to visit. Dinners out with friends. Seeing a movie I’m looking forward to, and yes, even a teeny tiny holiday. In April we are heading to Dorset for a weekend break with our best friends. Just knowing that is the diary really brightened up the first few days of January. Going to see “La La Land” last night, a movie I have been waiting for since November, was another thing that really put a spring in my step going into this week. Basically, give yourself things to look forward to, things that turn the year from a terrifying abyss of unknowns into a place where good things are planned to happen. Plan those good things.
3. Allow yourself to have the things you need.
This is the most important one for me. Allow yourself to have the things that bring you joy. Give yourself permission to do the things that make your smile. Don’t beat yourself up for needing a boost. I know I am guilty of comparing myself to others around me and being angry with myself for needing support. How can other people find it so easy to get through things whilst I find it so hard, and need so much help? It’s a question I still fight against, but it’s redundant. I don’t know what’s going on in other people’s minds. I might sit across from them in a coffee shop and think “How are they keeping themselves together so easily?” but I don’t know what happens behind closed doors, and neither do you. So do the things that help you and don’t feel guilty that you need the help. Which leads me to….
4. Treat yo’self
What do you love? What’s indulgent to you? Find what it is and treat yourself, without guilt or condemnation. Now, I’m not condoning foolish decisions. If you are piss-poor after Christmas but shopping makes you feel better, don’t go shopping every weekend in January and put yourself in immense debt. This is not a wise decision. But maybe you can have a wish list, a saved items bag on Asos, or a date at the end of the month where you’ve planned a little spree. The same goes for food – I don’t want to encourage anyone’s unhealthy eating habits. A treat is only a treat if it’s something you look forward to, that you don’t have every day, so binge eating through January doesn’t count. What does count are the things you wouldn’t usually do for yourself. For example, I love candles. Love ’em. But I’m always saving them for a special occasion, not wanting to “waste” them on myself, and even buying cheap tealights makes me feel like I am being indulgent. So this January I have lit a lot of candles and let me tell you, it’s been lovely. Just those little candles lit on these dark evenings brightens my mood. So what’s your treat? Maybe it’s booking yourself in for that extra class at the gym, maybe it’s giving yourself time to read your book, maybe it’s giving your space to get back into hobbies you have loved, but pushed aside. Dancing. Painting. Having coffee with friends. Treat yourself, because you deserve to feel happy, and if these things help then why not?
For me, it always boils down to this one fact: Self-care isn’t selfish. In my experience, you can try to push through and get angry at the fact you need help at all, or you can learn what helps you make it through and then do that. January is a hard month, and no one wants to feel like they are starting the year on the back foot. So do the things that make you feel like you’re getting back onto a level playing field, and do them without feeling guilty. Because you deserve joy.
And if, after all of that, things aren’t getting better, don’t beat yourself up. I say all of this from a place of medication, therapy, and a strong understanding of why my brain makes me feel certain ways. Some blue Mondays can’t be beaten with these things, and they are the blue Mondays that you need to get help about. See a doctor. Talk to somebody. Talk to me. You are not alone and you are not a failure for struggling.
I believe in you, and I believe blue Monday can be beaten.
If you are struggling, don’t stay silent. Comment here and we can chat, or see the below websites.