Disability Inclusion Student Ambassador Siobhan Smith writes about Blue Monday and provides some tips about how to manage your Mental Health when things get tough.
“January is the Monday of the months”. Have you heard this before? The societal idea that: A) Monday’s are inherently bad and B) The entirety of January is much the same. Now, of course I am aware that part of this statement is meant in jest however, we cannot deny that we feel an element of the ability to relate to it and each time we do, it holds more truth. I have been asked to write this blog in relation to a specific day (the 3rd Monday in January to be precise) that has been named as ‘Blue Monday’ – with the definition of being the saddest day of the year. This seems to be doing its rounds with much less implementation of relatable humour and instead more of a serious tone. So, before I go on and complete the task I was actually asked to do (sharing ways to self-manage mental wellbeing), first I want to tackle some myths and share some facts.
‘Blue Monday’ was started by a travel company, with the claim that it was evidence-based from a calculation which involved peoples’ low moods due to post-Christmas debt, failed New Year’s resolutions and the weather. The company’s aim was to use this to promote the sales of holidays, selling them as a way to boost the public’s morale. Although many of us can relate to the drop in mood due to these potential triggers, the so-called ‘calculation’ has been disproved.
Why is this important to share? Everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health. We all experience fluctuations in both, we have good days and bad days. PR stunts such as this one, create a potential trigger in the creation of a bad day that may have otherwise simply have been… a day. No one can tell you what you should feel, or when you should feel it. There is a lot of pressure on us to be happy on our birthdays, to cry at funerals, to be sad on certain anniversaries and be joyful in the face of good news. Sometimes this just isn’t how it is to be, and that is absolutely okay. We, as a society, question ourselves so much. We doubt ourselves and our feelings, we feel invalidated by external inputs and often our emotions are shaped by these pressures.
For some, getting back to ‘normal’ life after the holidays is a boost for their mental health. For others, yes it can be a harder time – for the reasons in the false calculation that birthed the name of the day, and for many others. So, if this is popping up for you and you are feeling fine, good, great, elated, inspired etc… please do not feel any pressure from this named day to question that.
We should be thinking about mental health the whole year through, our own and that of those around us. So whilst days like this, where social media gives us more of a platform to share (and be listened to) about ways to improve our mental well-being, we also have a responsibility to carry on the lessons every day after.
Here are, evidence-based ways, that we can improve our mood… every day of the year!
1. One of the most important things we can do for our mental health is to talk. This can take many forms; talking to a therapist, to a family member, to a friend but it can also be writing in a diary, writing songs, talking into the abyss. Whichever way you find the most comfortable, and the most accessible, for you to talk – go for it!
2. We always hear how exercise can improve our mental health and this can sometimes feel a bit like ‘toxic positivity. Not everyone has the ability to get out and exercise. However, whatever movement you can do, does genuinely have a positive influence (I promise).
3. I would like to finish on this most important note. It is completely normal to have fluctuations in your mood, just as it is normal to have fluctuations in your physical health. However, if you are feeling in a way that is concerning to you (be it low mood, or high mood), then the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for help.
Here are resources, through which you can find advice and support from those more trained to give it than I:
Edinburgh Napier University also has some great resources to help with Mental Wellbeing, including access to TogetherAll and SilverCloud, information can be found here:
Contact for emergency mental health support in times of crisis:
Samaritans (24/7): 116 123
SHOUT (a number you can text, 24/7): text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258
Edinburgh Crisis Centre: 0808 801 0414