Coping with Blue Monday (COVID edition)
Blue Monday refers to the third Monday of January and implies that it’s the most depressing day of the year. The phrase was originally coined by a travel company as a marketing ploy to sell more holidays. In my experience, it’s the whole of January that’s the problem, not just one particular day. So why does January feel so extreme?
Well, like most extreme situations it’s never just one thing, it’s usually a combination of events and occurrences...
Covid Lockdown – In the grand scheme of things I think you would be quite happy to swap this Blue Monday with last year’s one, right? I mean, last year there were no restrictions...you were free! You didn’t have to wear a mask, worry about interacting with others or breaking the rules. There was no anxiety about you or your loved ones health. It seems like a different world doesn’t it?
Common goal - On the run up to Christmas everyone had a shared focus. We all discuss our plans, our favourite films and present ideas. We are all bombarded with adverts and Christmas songs. Most of us felt part of the big Christmas machine with a support network of friends, colleagues and family (albeit virtual this year) but as quickly as it appeared, it vanished...back to reality.
Infectious - Everything is made up of energy and that includes us. We are walking, talking energy transponders. Some people make our heart leap and other make it sink. Human emotions are contagious especially negative ones so, during January, most people seem to emit a negative vibe which culminates in a blanket of despair.
Cold Turkey - I’m not refereeing to what you’ve been eating since Christmas day; I’m actually talking about withdrawal symptoms. For the last month you’ve been loading your system with sugar, salt, fat and alcohol then, suddenly, you are back at work and it’s all over, but like any drug, if we suddenly stop, it has a negative effect on our equilibrium. It’s like a large-scale hangover.
Resolution - So January equals returning to work, back to reality, no more excessive eating and drinking - quite the opposite, we are now on a self-imposed diet with an unrealistic fitness regime and we couldn’t go to the gym even if we wanted to!
Infradian rhythms. These are part of our natural cycles. Humans don’t hibernate but most of our hardwired programming came from when we were cavemen. During cold months we would slow down to conserve energy. Doesn’t it make sense that we should be relaxing a bit in January rather than putting pressure and expectations on ourselves? No wonder we are so stressed! Resolutions, fitness and diets would be so much easier to maintain if New Year was at the beginning of spring rather than bang in the middle of winter.
Everlasting winter - Christmas is associated with winter and (due to its increasing commercial nature) shop, TV and internet advertising now start the day after Halloween, in November. The problem is that, in the Northern Hemisphere, November is autumn so this makes winter feel never ending.
What can I do about it?
Whenever I’ve had a client at Harley Street who is suffering the effects of the January blues I find that just sharing the above information has a really positive effect, after all, knowledge is power. However, I’m now going to share my 9 tips for defeating a Covid Blue Monday (and January):
1. Happy thoughts. This is a technique I use when someone tells me they feel down. Think of how you feel right now and give it a number. 0 is despair and 10 is elation. Now think about someone you love, your best friend, partner, family member or colleague. Now remember them laughing, really laughing. Think about the noise they make, how they screw their face up, if they cry when they laugh, if they double up or have to sit down. Really remember the details of the situation, what they were wearing, where you were, why it was so funny. Recall the details as though you are seeing it through your own eyes. Check your number again, gone up hasn’t it?
2. Happy Music. Most people have a list of songs appropriate for the situation - energetic for exercising, soothing for relaxing etc. So why not compile a playlist just for feeling good – those songs that whisk you away to a fantastic memory? It doesn’t matter what, or how embarrassing the songs are, if they makes you feel good then who cares?
3. Compliments. If you want something back, give it away. Want someone to smile at you, smile at them first. This is the basis of great human interaction. If you want a boost during Covid Blue Monday give someone you like a compliment.
4. Magnificent Magnesium. Magnesium is actually known as “nature’s sedative”. It is a muscle relaxant and great at calming the nervous system. It is also one of the best minerals at reducing stress and anxiety. Natural foods include spinach, broccoli, almonds, Brazil nuts, salmon and tuna, you could also take a supplement.
5. Chew gum. The process of chewing actually relaxes us, another reason people comfort eat. The key is to chomp on a good quality, naturally sweetened, sugar-free gum instead of calories. When we were cavemen we were in constant threat from attack by predators, especially when they detected our precious food. For safety we would eat in our groups - we would eat when we felt safe, when we felt safe we relaxed, therefore (from a hardwired neurological perspective) when we chew we are telling our subconscious mind that all is well, this relaxes our Nervous system.
6. Born to run. If you would like to work out, anytime, anywhere, quietly, by yourself, without stress or judgement then spend the money you saved from your gym membership on a pair of quality running shoes and a GPS heart monitor. Put your kit on, go outside and start walking or running, it’s that simple! You are a natural runner; it’s in your DNA. Running has actually dictated the shape of our anatomy verified by the fact that we can run further than any other animal on the planet, even horses. You can start off by walking then walk-run, jog or even sprint – it can be both aerobic and anaerobic.
7. Vitamin D. When we are exposed to daylight, even in the winter, our skin produces Vitamin D and many experts feel that this helps regulate our circadian pattern which improves our sleep/wake cycle. In many studies low levels are linked to anxiety and depression. So during January try to get out in the daylight whenever possible. This is just another reason why I think street running/walking is so great. I would also recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.
8. Declutter. This is very simple: you can’t expect to have a harmonious mind if you live in disharmony...mess equals stress. Ensure that the area in your home where you relax is as clean and clear as possible. This is the principle of Zen and if you’ve ever visited a Japanese garden you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
9. Wish List. The key to this is the details: you need to think of something you’ve always wanted to do, then imagine yourself doing it. You need to VISUALISE yourself doing it ‘associated’ – looking through your own eyes as though you are actually experiencing it and fill in as much detail as you can; the sounds, the smells, the colours. This makes it real - a memory that hasn’t happened yet. Once you set yourself on this mission your unconscious mind will start to present you with ideas. When we give a future event positive, tangible, substance it gives it energy. It takes on its own gravity and it draws us towards it. Think of a place you’ve always wanted to visit and put it at the top of your list.
Alternatively, you could always get out your battered credit card and just actually book it, I mean, that was the whole idea of Blue Monday in the first place and we won’t be locked down forever! We need things to look forward to!
Photos in order of apperance: