Blue Monday in the Times of the Pandemic by Florencia Botta

A snowy picture of some trees that reads "Blue Monday in the times of the pandemic"

Blue Monday is upon us. For the unfamiliar, Blue Monday is the name given to the 3rd Monday of January, considered the saddest day of the year. The warmth and beauty of Christmas lights are over, but the days remain as cold and short. This year, Blue Monday falls on the 17th. However, it does not limit itself to a single day but represents the peak of seasonal depression.

There are a lot of previous articles about Blue Monday. For example, Tackling the January Blues by 2nd Year Theatre Arts, Educations and Deaf Studies student, Alexander; January Blues – Monthly wellbeing blog by Counselling & Wellbeing; and It’s Blue Monday give helpful tips about how to deal with low moods during January.

I thought it would be interesting to share my experience with the day. I come from a much warmer country in South America. For this reason, before coming to the UK, I knew little about Blue Monday and seasonal depression. I remember speaking to a researcher from the US warning me about the effect, particularly regarding the short days. I find myself agreeing with her. The UK has 1000 fewer hours than my home country, which results in much shorter winter days. It changes the way I perceive and schedule the day. I must also admit I am badly predisposed. I don’t like the cold, and I am used to very warm Januarys, so I am not the best candidate to find joy in January at all.

For this reason, I spoke to a friend who comes from much northern and colder climate. Someone who loves snow. I imagined she would know much better how to deal with these issues. Although she told me that seasonal depression was an issue, she also found a lot of comfort in the colder months. She explained to me that the key was preparing your living environment for comfort. The weather might be dreadful, but your home is very comforting, or at least the most comforting you can make it. I understand this logic. Although I dislike the rain, I very much enjoy watching a storm from the safety of my home. The second piece of advice was finding activities you could do in cold dark weather, like settling yourself with your favourite media and enjoying cosy winter flavours. I also took this advice and used this opportunity for reading and watching a lot of moody and horror books and movies, as well as drinking a lot of flavoured coffee and spiced teas and hot chocolates.

This year I believe seasonal depression has been compounded by numerous world events, including mainly but not exclusively, reaching two years of the pandemic. This is significant as it introduces many more obstacles. Many people were unable to see their families for the holidays, taking away a little from the cheer of the season. Furthermore, many activities usually done to reduce sadness, like meeting friends, attending events, and having parties, are not possible for many. Although all these things are true, I still believe the advice holds water. There are things you can do to deal with seasonal depression. Personally, these are a few changes I have implemented to reduce my January blues:

  • Wake up earlier. I have not always been good at this. I am more of a night owl. However, waking up early and taking advantage of as much daylight as I can, has helped me enjoy the day more and get more things done.
  • Leave the house for some exercise. Although not always possible. Leaving the house and having some fresh air can be very good to clear your head. I think this is more effective if you do it around noon when the sun is at its highest.
  • Try to find activities which work better for cold weather. I am not a sportsperson. However, winter allows enjoying sports like ice skating and hiking. Just make sure to do it safely. In my case, the winter is an excuse to try all sorts of cosy winter foods, like soups and hot chocolates. This includes many fun things like finding great recipes or places to try. If you are into fashion, you may try different winter looks.
  • As mentioned before, make your living environment and clothing as comfortable as possible. I enjoyed my time outside much more once I started to wear thermal clothing. It does not need to be expensive, but comfortable for you.
  • Keep in touch with people. Although there are some restrictions due to Covid, you can still meet online or with a few people (following safety measures).
  • Be kind to yourself. These bits of advice are based on my own experiences, and they overlap a little with general tips I followed during quarantine. They may not apply to everyone. It is ok to feel bad, and it is also ok to ask for help if you think you cannot do it alone.

Finally, remember that this will also pass. It is surprising how easily how people adapt and forget previous years. However, the month is almost over. Slowly, the days will start to become longer, and the temperature will go up. In the meantime, try to make the best of it. Who knows, you may become a winter person after a while 😊

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