Pine trees have been discarded, wreaths and string lights are tucked back into storage, and in just a few short weeks, heavy feelings of sadness may arise as the holiday comedown officially sets in.
The third Monday of the month, January 16, will mark ‘Blue Monday,’ considered to be the saddest day of the year and a particularly heavy time for some.
“Now the holiday celebrations are over and people are now returning back to their regular routine, and on top of that, we are also facing the depth of the cold and dark winter season,” Vera Cheng, registered social worker and psychotherapist, told CTV News Channel Monday. “As the post-holiday slump sets in, we are also trying to live up to the reality of our New Year’s resolution which can be a challenging time for our mental health.”
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five Canadians experiences mental illness in any given year, and an estimated two to three per cent of Canadians are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is triggered by seasonal changes, often in late autumn, and can cause feelings of sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, oversleeping and weight gain.
WHAT IS BLUE MONDAY?
While the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ was originally a marketing tactic used by U.K. travel company Sky Travel in 2005, it has since caught on to be the gloomiest day of the year for various reasons.
Factors such as longer and colder nights, hefty post-holiday credit card bills, a decrease in social plans, and the early days of SAD, can make this Monday particularly heavy.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
While the motivation sparked by setting New Year’s resolutions may be beneficial for some, Cheng advises to not put too much pressure on new goals at this time, or to make comparisons to others.
“Don’t get bogged down by your New Year’s resolutions, and don’t make comparisons on social media. Remember that we’re only seeing small glimpses of people’s successes. Expect yourself to fail at times,” she says. “And by being honest with your New Year’s resolutions, you can then set realistic expectations from it.”
Cheng also urges people to reach out to their support system and stay connected.
“This can be done by reaching out to your friends, family or colleagues by setting up lunch dates or coffee dates, or even consider making virtual connections.”
Joining a book club for example, says Cheng, can become a positive outlet for people to learn how to share their feelings and better manage them.
“This will help you to build your emotional and mental health resilience.”
In a post on CAMH’s website, psychologist Dr. Katy Kamkar another way people can cope is to take stock of your habits and see where you can make “simple but effective changes.”
“Daily meaningful activities like getting proper sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active, setting up a budget to manage your spending habits, these are all practical, achievable goals that can make you feel more balanced,” Kamkar says.
To get ahead of Blue Monday, Psychology Today advises having a quality bedtime routine the night before, going to bed early, and limiting blue light from screens.