January Blues – Monthly wellbeing blog by Counselling & Wellbeing

Image of a deflated balloon, the balloon is on a blue background, is light blue itself and has a unhappy face drawn on it.

Today is known as Blue Monday, and so, the University of Reading Counselling and Wellbeing team has created this blog all around the January Blues. Let us know if this is something you are feeling at the moment as we have support networks for you.

January is often a time we can be affected by the so-called ‘January blues’ – the Christmas buzz is over, the days are short, it’s cold and it’s often grey, this can have an impact on our mood. Add to that a global pandemic and another national lockdown and it’s understandable that we might be feeling down and struggling with low motivation and low energy.

In nature, winter is a time of rest – trees and plants have a time of restoration to conserve their energy before spring arrives and many animals hibernate and rest. We too, need this time to recharge and reflect. There can be pressure to make ambitious ‘new year’s resolutions’, and in some ways, this conflicts with our natural inclination to slow down at this time of year, so motivation can be difficult to generate, or can quickly dip.

Setting realistic and meaningful goals can give us something positive to focus us and work towards. A good way to combine the restoration and goal-setting can be to focus on self-care – taking small steps to nourish ourselves every day to improve our physical and emotional wellbeing. Some examples of this could be;

  • having a warm bath or shower
  • reading a book
  • movement – stretching, walking, yoga
  • watching a film/series/youtube video
  • keeping hydrated
  • eating more healthily
  • practising mindfulness
  • getting creative, e.g. macramé, new recipes, drawing
  • improving your sleep routine
  • getting fresh air every day

We are also more likely to stick to our goals if they are in line with our values, i.e. thinking about what is important to us and what we want our future to look like. Having our long-term plan or values in mind and connecting our short-term goals to things that are meaningful to us can help boost our motivation for doing them.

Another way to beat the January blues is to practice gratitude. When we’re feeling down, we have a natural tendency to focus on the things that aren’t going well. We live in a culture of scarcity, where our attention is often focused on ‘not enough’ –  not having enough sleep or comparing ourselves to others who we perceive to be better in different areas. We often take for granted things that we do have, perhaps our family or friends, our health, having a safe place to live, access to food and water, an opportunity for education. While it is possible and valid to experience depression while having these things, it is helpful to focus our attention towards gratitude where we can.

A fundamental part of wellness is a connection to others, which during lockdown is really tough to maintain. We are social creatures, so isolation can have a big impact on our mood. Try to keep contact with your friends and family, preferably through video calls, as this gives us a stronger sense of connection than messaging. Perhaps plan regular group calls and virtually have a meal, play a game or watch something together.

The good news is that we’ve been in lockdown before, so we know more about what to expect and will have learnt lessons from our previous experience. The uncertainty of when we’ll be in relative normality again can feel anxiety-provoking and relentless but is important to remember that like seasons in nature, there is always hope for change, and taking small steps to look after ourselves now is enough.

Charlie Mackesy quote and artwork:

Charlie Mackesy quote and artwork: 'I can't see a way through' said the boy 'Can you see your next step? 'Yes' 'Just take that' said the horse. Image is a a watercolour and ink of a horse and a bog in a forest.

Remember that there are a range of resources and support available to you if you need it. You can register with Counselling and Wellbeing and find more information here.

Stay safe and well!

Emily Cosser

Mental Health Advisor, Counselling and Wellbeing Service

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