Making Monday less blue

On the 15th January news sites and social media will be abuzz with talk of Blue Monday – the third and supposedly most depressing Monday of the year.

But in reality, just as a Friday 13th is no different to any other Friday, Blue Monday is just like any other Monday, scientifically speaking.

However, that said there are definitely a lot of pressures on our mental health this time of the year. After splurging at Christmas many of us struggle with debt and some experience family problems over the holidays. Coming back to work can be a stressful jolt after a week or two of relaxation too.

Sleeping dog

Meanwhile, Seasonal Affective Disorder – caused by chemical changes brought on by dark, miserable weather conditions – affects as many as one in fifteen of us according to NHS estimates, and festive weight gain can leave our self-esteem at rock bottom.

All things considered, January can be tough, whether you have an existing mental health problem or not.

So what can you do to feel better? The answer is different for everyone, but there are a few sure-fire ways to help look after your mental health post-Christmas. Here are 5 tips from the NCMH team:

1 Get some exercise

No-one really wants to hear it, let’s face it – but exercise is great for the mind as well as the body, acting as a natural antidepressant. And it doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or running a marathon. Take a walk at lunchtime, cycle instead of driving or even take the stairs rather than lifts or escalators. It all adds up and helps get the endorphins flowing.

Man riding bike across a bridge

2 Eat well, drink less

It’s not easy after a Christmas break full of cheese, chocolate and booze, but taking a bit more care of your diet and cutting back on alcohol can have a major positive effect on your body and mind. Alcohol, in particular, can make all sorts of mental health conditions worse. But…

3 Bin the unrealistic New Year’s resolutions

Are you REALLY going to be able to run 5 miles every morning before breakfast, or give up chocolate completely? Don’t set yourself up for failure – why not resolve to squeeze in a run or two per week and limit chocolate to the weekends rather than going cold turkey?

Walk to the shops instead of getting the bus, or go out for drinks one less night a month. Small wins are better for your self-esteem than big losses.

4 Give yourself a break – in more ways than one.

Don’t be chained to your desk at work – get outdoors for some fresh air at lunchtime – as well as getting a proper break (essential for stress-busting), you’ll also be exercising and getting some sunlight, which can help with SAD.

person walking in winter coat beside a bright wall

Equally, don’t beat yourself up over post-Christmas weight gain, or festive family feuds. Chances are everyone you know will have put on a few pounds since that first mince pie back in November, and those perfect family Christmas snaps your friends posted on Facebook are more than likely heavily edited.

5 Speak to your doctor

If you feel low for more than a couple of weeks, or you feel really desperate, speak to your GP or psychiatrist.

You might also find other sources of help such as The Samaritans or the CALL Helpline useful, especially out of hours.

Here’s to a happier healthier 2018!

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Catrin Hopkins

Catrin yw'r Swyddog Cyfathrebu ar gyfer yr NCMH a Canolfan CYF Prifysgol Caerdydd.

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