This post is written by Priya Vithani, NLMT Music Therapist
Blue Monday falls on January 18th this year. Rumour has it that the idea was originally a PR stunt by a travel company, used to promote their winter deals. The concept was coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall, and despite the original gimmick, there is some logic behind it.
Falling on the third Monday of January each year, it is thought that Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year. It’s cold, it’s dark, and as most people get paid before Christmas as a treat, it's often the longest people go between pay checks, at a time when money is often tight anyway following what can be the most expensive time of the year.
The legitimacy of this day is often disputed by experts, however, we cannot deny the effects of the winter months on mental health for many people, which can lead to serious concerns such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), anxiety, and depression. The COVID-19 pandemic is also likely to contribute to mental health concerns in addition to the difficulties many people experience under ‘normal’ circumstances.
Following a year of heightened distress for many, and what may feel like never ending lockdowns, here’s some tips to help look after your mental health. Even with Blue Monday in mind, it could be good practice to incorporate some of these ideas as part of your daily living.
Make sure you establish a healthy work-life balance
Work-life balance is not just about time spent working vs time spent not-working; it is equally important to make sure we are able to “switch off” from work. This is made even more complex for many of us spending at least some if not all of our working time at home due to lockdown. This can risk blurring the boundaries between home and work life, making it difficult to switch off - both in terms of physically switching off the computer, as well as moving from an “at work” mindset to an “at home” mindset.
Tips to create a healthy balance:
Make sure you assert boundaries around working hours, especially if you’re working from home due to lockdown. Establishing a routine to support this would be beneficial
Where possible, allocate a designated working space separate to where you relax in order to separate home and work environments
Take regular breaks, being sure to include time to get outside for some fresh air and natural light
Try to reduce screen time for at least an hour before bed to help support sleep
Schedule time for yourself to do things you enjoy
Try to do activities that help you to mentally switch-off from your working day. These could be practising yoga, reading a book, watching your favourite show on Netflix, or dancing around your kitchen to your favourite songs - whatever it is that you enjoy doing
For those unable to work
The lack or loss of routine might make it difficult to stay motivated. Try and create a routine for yourself so you have milestones to reach throughout the week. This could give a sense of accomplishment as well as increase motivation and hopefully decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.
Ideas to include in your routine:
Self-care - do a face mask, have a bath, pamper yourself
Rest & relaxation - routine is important, and this should absolutely include rest
Chores such as cleaning / laundry - mundane, but they’re tasks that need doing
Outdoor exercise such as walking or going for a jog
Indoor exercise such as yoga
Creative activities such as writing a song if you’re musical, or drawing/painting if you’re arty, or anything else you can think of that you enjoy
Try something new - always wanted to learn a new language, or an instrument? Now is the time! There are plenty of free resources available, YouTube is a really good place to start
This list is not exhaustive, and you could include anything you feel would be appropriate.
Just remember not to put too much pressure on yourself to be productive. You could choose to do one idea per day to fill your week, or mix it up and choose a few smaller tasks to do in one day; the choice is yours. If you need a day or two to recoup that is absolutely ok, it’s all about balance.
What to do if you’re struggling
Support networks are really important. If you feel like you can’t cope, reach out to a close family member or friend for a chat about things, but if things still feel too much make sure you know who to reach out to for that additional support.
If you’re in crisis, Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123, otherwise longer-term interventions could be a valuable investment in your overall mental health. .
For ongoing support with your mental health, why not consider music therapy? Music therapy is an evidence based intervention and recommended in the NICE guidelines for depression. You don’t need to be a musician or know how to play an instrument to access music therapy - that’s what your therapist is for! Sessions can be entirely based around music, or can involve an element of talking too.
More information about our music therapy service is available here