Today, is Blue Monday, which apparently is the most depressing day of the year. The causes are numerous, bad weather (well those of us who are UK based can all vouch for that), lack of money after the excesses of Xmas, or precisely the time when our self-improvement promises for New Year have fallen by the wayside. A search on Google shows that someone has even tried (and failed) to devise an equation to calculate it.
I’m just hoping that for most people reading, these blue days are the exception rather than the norm. It’s OK to have down days once in a while, it’s part of life, but we owe it to ourselves (and our friends, family and colleagues) to try to identify persistent symptoms and break the cycle.
This blog (the first in a series of 3 about mental health) will go on to cover signs of depression, which is sadly all too commonplace amongst our society. I’m sure we all know friends or family who have been affected by this disease – it affects people indiscriminately, regardless of age, gender, affluence and location. The first part of this blog is for those who fall into the latter category, having a down day.
If you are genuinely feeling down today (or any day for that matter) I would suggest some short terms fixes:
- Dress up (may be a bit late!) – I don’t mean black tie attire, but break from the usual Monday morning choices and make a little extra effort to look smarter than you usually do (if that’s possible!) – it will make you feel better and people will compliment you
- Treat yourself – life’s too short – it could be an indulgent treat, an album you’ve been meaning to get, or a pair of new shoes
- Say something positive to at least 5 people – sometimes we are all too busy going on about our own stuff to take time to really compliment someone at work or at home; as well as making them feel better you will also feel better for doing it
- Do something really thoughtful for someone – it could be buying a hot drink for a homeless person, or offering to help someone in need, or reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Do something physical – exercise will make you feel better, even if it’s just going for a walk somewhere
- Write something – I personally found this very therapeutic when I was dealing with the trauma of my mum’s illness. I find writing a real release and way of feeling good about myself. Find your creative outlet
- Listen to your favourite songs – try to focus on those that you associate with happy times
Regardless of your political persuasion I’m sure we are all in agreement that the last couple of years have been pretty jading, what with political infighting and lies (who can you trust?), climate crisis, fake news, Brexit, increasing need for food banks, terrorism, wild fires, wars, the list goes on. I made a conscious effort to start 2020 with a spring in my step and to try not to overthink the state of the UK (or the world for that matter) and my part in all of it. I feel I accept that ‘what will be will be’ and that all I can do is influence my own happiness and wellbeing. Boris isn’t responsible for my own happiness – that’s down to me.
I am one of the fortunate ones who’ve not experienced depression – sure, I’ve had down days, or weeks, but I’ve managed to drag myself up from my own mini abyss and focus on the positive side of life. Others are not so fortunate and this will slowly change with the various campaigns around mental health awareness, for example #itsoktonotbeok and #headsup. I suppose there are two things to observe, firstly try to watch for the signs, and secondly, talk to someone.
For me we need to try to spot these signs of major depressive disorder in ourselves and in other people (but be aware that those with long term depression are sometimes good at hiding the symptoms). Signs include:
- Hopeless outlook (or feelings of worthlessless or self-hate) – which can be vocalised as “it’s all my fault” or “what’s the point”
- Disinterested – typically loss of interest or withdrawal from the things you love (which can include decreased sex drive)
- Increased fatigue and sleep problems – lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. Insomnia is also common
- Anxiety – including nervousness, feeling tense, feelings of danger or panic, heavy sweating, trouble focusing on anything other than the thing that is causing you worry
- Irritability in men – Depression affects the sexes in different ways. This can include escapist or risky behaviour, substance abuse or misplaced anger
- Changes in appetite or weight – if dietary changes are unintentional, they may be caused by depression
- Uncontrollable emotions – one minute it could be an outburst of anger, the next crying uncontrollably.
- Looking at death – often people will talk about it or make a first attempt
If these symptoms are affecting you (or someone you know) then please speak to someone.
I do take comfort in the fact that after today we have another 366 days (the benefit of being in a leap year!) until the next Blue Monday. We all have at least two joyous days to look forward to this year, Friday 19th June is apparently the happiest day of the year and if you can’t wait until then perhaps you can partake in International Day of Happiness on Friday 20th March.
Author: Steven Halsall
Monday 19th January 2020