Today is what's known as "Blue Monday", referred to by some as the most depressing day of the year.
A combination of post-Christmas blues, back-to-work modes for many and the arrival of credit card bills for the festive period, often lead to many people not being able to cope.
So what can you do to spot the symptoms and avoid that sinking feeling ? Read on for advice from charity Mental Health UK, on when things aren't quite right, and some top tips on how to manage that.
Blog below by Emma Carrington, Advice and Information Service Manager, Mental Health UK
Most of us will go through difficult times in our lives, when we may experience periods of stress, anxiety or low mood.
Blue Monday has been described as the most depressing day of the year, but whether you buy into this or not (and there’s not much science behind it!), you should be thinking of how you can best support your mental health on this Monday as you would on any other day of the year.
How do I recognise if things aren’t quite right ?
Everyone is different, but if you notice that you’re experiencing low mood, a sense of anxiety or are struggling to cope with your emotions, it may be a helpful for you to explore ways in which you can support your own mental health.
If you find yourself struggling over a period of time and it’s affecting your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to seek help.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of mental illness it’s important that you speak to your GP to ensure you get the right kind of help and support –more on this later.
You might not be able to avoid challenges to your mental health, but here are some examples of how you can manage it.
Getting enough exercise and being active is important for both your mental and physical health. Keeping active can help to improve your mood and general well-being, and help you feel better about yourself.
One of the most important things is to do something that you enjoy. The good news is that anything that gets your body moving can be beneficial, so you don’t have to spend hours in the gym or run a marathon to feel the benefits of being active.
Walking the dog or playing hide and seek with the kids can also help ! There are some beautiful spaces around Birmingham, whether it is some of our local parks or the canal network. These can be great places for a walk.
If you’ve not done any exercise for a while or have other health problems, you could discuss ways of increasing your physical activity with your GP.
Setting small goals can help you to stay motivated and see signs of progress.
It’s so important to prioritise your sleep. A lack of sleep can affect how your feel both physically and mentally, but we all know that when we have a lot on our mind it can be hard to sleep well.
There are some changes you can make to try and make improvements to your quality of sleep. Getting into a good routine can help; making sure you relax before bedtime with a warm bath, reading a book, listening to a meditation app or some music is much better than scrolling through your phone – as tempting as it may be !
Find your balance
If you feel like you have a lot on your plate, planning your time can make you feel more in control of things.
Writing lists, prioritising tasks and setting goals are all things that can help. It is sometimes tempting to put things off if we’re reluctant to do them, but taking action can be really helpful.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for support; friends, family and colleagues might all be happy to help you out.
If you’re working, it can feel that you don’t have time to stop and plan your day. But it can really help to take ten minutes to talk to your manager or a colleague about what’s overwhelming you. The old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” can be very true !
Often other people can help you to identify what your important tasks are and what you can perhaps defer or delegate.
It’s also important to take breaks whilst you are at work. If you can, head outside for a short walk or call someone for a chat at lunchtime to make sure you get away from your desk.
Little things can make a big difference.
This may just seem like common sense, but we’re all busy and it’s important to reflect on how you feel at work, rather than solely focussing on how productive you are.
Above all, be kind to yourself. It’s impossible to do everything perfectly, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t get everything done.
Share your problems
If you’re worried that you are struggling with your mental health, then it might be best to make an appointment with your GP - you can ask at the surgery if there is someone at the practice who has an interest in mental health.
It can be helpful keep a mood diary to keep track of how you’re feeling or to write down a list of things that you’d like to talk about so that you can get the most from your appointment.
You can also use useful NHS websites such as Every Mind Matters. This website gives useful, practical tips on managing things like stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s good to take time out but be careful not to isolate yourself. Friends and family can also be a great source of support if you’re struggling with your mental health.
If someone starts a conversation with you about their mental health today, don’t dismiss it because so-called Blue Monday means everyone’s feeling a bit down.
We need to be looking after our mental health every day of the year.