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Top 10 tips to beat the January blues

photo of a woman on a couch looking sad, pondering, thinking, January blues

If you're feeling low at this time of year, you’re not alone. As people talk of ‘blue Monday’, which was actually a PR campaign invented by a holiday company several years ago to sell holidays, you may be wondering what can be done to turn your blues away. The good news is, that there are plenty of things you can do to help alleviate some of the stressors which can trigger feelings of low mood.

It’s also important to note that feeling more than a little run down after the rush of the festive period is completely normal. The January blues may arrive at the peak of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder which affects people during winter, manifesting as feelings of sadness, tiredness, lack of motivation and low energy.

Typically occurring between October and March, SAD is known to induce episodes of depression during the darker, colder months. In the UK, it's estimated that SAD affects up to 2 million people.

Seasonal affective disorder can occur when your circadian rhythms (physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle) are disrupted by shorter days and colder temperatures. This disruption of the body’s ‘internal clock’ leads many people to experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Combine this with the aftermath of the festive period, returning back to a regular working routine and potential financial struggles after an early December payday, it’s no wonder many people struggle at this time of year.

Thankfully, these feelings usually don't last and most people will feel much better within a few weeks.

Here are our top ten tips to help give yourself the best possible start to 2023!

1. Avoid making New Year’s resolutions you can’t keep. People who make too ambitious New Year's resolutions and then feel disappointed when they can't keep them are among those who experience the January blues. It's a wonderful idea to make resolutions to improve yourself, but just make sure you can keep them. Make sure your resolution is something you can truly do and quantify. Avoid difficult and ambiguous ones like "save money" and "be more organised."

2. Get back into your routine and stay active. Getting out of bed and going to work or school will help you get back into a schedule, helping to make you feel more accomplished throughout the day. If your job isn’t as exciting as it used to be, try doing something in your own time that makes you happy. Even if it's just walking around outside in good weather, exercising releases chemicals in our brains that help us feel better about ourselves and happier overall.

3. Enjoy as much daylight as possible. It’s been established that getting insufficient amounts of sunlight and vitamin D lowers our happiness and makes us feel depressed. You may feel better and sleep more soundly if you are exposed to sunlight. Serotonin, a brain chemical linked to happier moods, is produced in greater quantities in the brain when exposed to natural light.

4. Plan ahead, but try not to take on too much. Make a plan for the future. The January blues can last a little longer than one month, so it's important that you have a plan that extends beyond this time period—even if this is just having a goal of making plans with friends once per week or scheduling regular check-in sessions with your doctor or therapist every three months.

Try breaking down your tasks into manageable steps. Focus on one task at a time and set deadlines for each step, so you can feel like you're making progress towards completing your project. The more clearly you define what needs to be done, the less overwhelmed you'll feel. Keeping a to-do list is also helpful in maintaining focus on what's important and helping you prioritise which tasks should be tackled first.

5. Focus on what you can control. Try not to let other people's moods affect yours, and avoid letting a temporary downturn in your health or relationships make you feel powerless. You have the ability to decide how you will react, even when life throws challenges your way. So instead of focusing on everything that's going wrong, remember that there are many things that can be kept under control. Eva Mylona, a Psychotherapist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea says “It’s important to acknowledge that it’s not always easy or straightforward to not be affected by other people. We can always try and if things don’t go according to plan, to not be discouraged, but try again.

6. Eat and drink properly. It’s typical for people to crave heavier foods during the chilly winter months. Sugar crashes make you exhausted and unnecessarily hungry in addition to being incredibly unhealthy. Eating a healthy, diverse diet that includes things like oily fish and taking extra vitamin D, also known as the "sunshine vitamin," will help you feel better. A balanced diet will improve your mood and offer you more energy. Have plenty fresh fruit and vegetables, and ensure you’re drinking enough water each day.

7. Volunteer at a support group or charity! Volunteering can be a great way to get out and meet new people if you're feeling lonely or isolated. Not only will it help you feel more fulfilled, but it can also help boost your skills in new areas. For example, if you want to learn how to use social media for marketing purposes but don't have the time or budget for classes, volunteering at a local non-profit organisation that uses these tools might be the perfect way for you to gain hands-on experience with them. As well as helping others in need, volunteering is good for your own mental health too because it makes us feel like we're contributing towards something bigger than ourselves.

8. Make time for friends and family. People who make you feel good about yourself are important at any time of year, but especially if you're feeling down or stressed out by bad weather or exhausting work schedules that may have been put upon us during the holidays.

9. Positive affirmations and social media. Social media can be great in many ways, allowing people to connect with others around the world who share fun positive content. There are plenty of accounts that share daily positive affirmations to help give your mood a boost in the right direction. It’s equally important to minimise your exposure to triggers - content that makes you doubt yourself or promotes negative feelings of self-worth. Consider having a social media clear out of unhelpful accounts or even take a break from social media if you need to.

10. Be thankful for all the good things. Pay attention to the good things, no matter how minor, that are happening all around you. You might be appreciative of getting a good night's sleep or finishing your work on time, for instance. Remember to appreciate the small victories and recognise your accomplishments; doing so will assist you to shift your attention from the shortcomings. In fact, studies have shown that focusing on gratitude can help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.

If you suffer from the January blues, there are ways to help get rid of them. This article has looked at some of the most common causes of these feelings and how you can tackle them. From making sure that your body is well-rested and fed, to keeping busy with new projects at work or home; there are plenty of options available if you want to beat the January blues. However, if you feel that everything is having a negative or uncontrollable impact on your mood and general wellbeing, it's crucial to neither dismiss these feelings nor assume that they will go away on their own.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at Schoen Clinic if you need assistance with your mental health, now or at any other time of the year. Contact our team at Schoen Clinic Chelsea today.

Reviewed by: Evangelia Mylona, one of our lovely Psychotherapists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea.

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