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8 ways to beat the Blue Monday blues

By Amber Cowburn, founder at Working Well and Mental Health First Aid Instructor

January can be a difficult time for our well-being. It follows the excitement and exhaustion of the Christmas holidays, many of us have lower funds or strict resolutions to stick to, and our weather is grey whilst our nights draw in early. 

Every year, the third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue Monday”. It’s the most depressing day of the year according to some statistics, with people struggling to push through January in high spirits. 

Meanwhile, the financial service sector was revealed to have the highest percentage of mental illness-related employee absences of any field. In fact, a recent report by AdviserPlus found that up to a third of all reported absences in this sector were related to mental health.

With this in mind, it’s vital that you prioritise your well-being and take small steps to look after your mental health. 

Here are 8 little ways you can look after yourself this January:

  1. Keep active
    Exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that give you a boost. Plus, keeping active is a stress-buster if you’re feeling frazzled at work or home. It provides a great break from over-thinking. Pick a workout you enjoy — it’s not a punishment! While it can feel daunting to get started, once you do, it will quickly become a pleasant habit.

  2. Hygge and get cosy
    The Danish concept of hygge is all about getting cosy in the winter and feeling nourished. Start by giving your living area a little hygge update with extra blankets, candles or soft lighting. Get cosy in the evenings when it’s cold and dark outside with a friend, family or a great book.

  3. Healthy meals to fuel you
    Fad diets are often the flavour of the month in January as people rush to cut back after Christmas. This often ends in disaster because these diets are too restrictive. Focus instead on food to fuel you through this month: whole grains, lean protein and extra vegetables. A good warm breakfast will set you up for the day. 

  4. Prioritise rest
    Our bodies and minds simply can’t function without rest. Sleep deprivation and overtiredness are the quickest ways to burnout at work. Lack of sleep also causes us to gain weight, be irritable and lose concentration. Don’t over-stretch your social diary. Inch your bedtime back by 20 minutes and enjoy some lazy time in the month. 

  5. Connect 
    It’s important to feel a sense of connection, be it with other people or all by ourselves. Reach out to friends or family members to meet for a catch-up. Try visiting a gallery or museum to connect with the art. Or simply go for a coffee and connect with a good book.

  6. Ban screen time before bed
    We are all guilty of scrolling through our phones, finishing emails or reading that article on our phone just before bed. But staring at a backlit screen right before sleep stimulates our brain at a time when we should be winding down. For a gentler sleep regime, put your phone on the other side of the room and read a few pages of a book each night.

  7. Use your commute as a well-being investment 
    If you commute every morning, then see this as a great opportunity to focus on your well-being. Download a good podcast or audio book or find relaxing music to listen to. You could even try the Headspace app, which does short guided breathing exercises — perfect if you’re on public transport but not advised while driving! 

  8. Reach out for help
    If you’re struggling with your stress levels or mental health, keep in mind you have a lot of support options available. Speak to a friend, family member or line manager and tell them how you are feeling, or book an appointment with your GP. There are also many organisations like the Samaritans who can help you in various ways. 

Remember, we all have mental health. As with any other health issue, there is no shame in asking for help if you are struggling. You need to take care of yourself – not just on Blue Monday or during January but throughout the year.

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Interested in finding out more? Watch our conversation with Amber
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