2016 is well and truly upon us now. This means that we’re all feeling energised and excited about all the amazing things we’re going to do and achieve in the coming year. At least that’s how we think we should be feeling and how we assume everyone else is feeling.
In reality, the New Year can actually be a very difficult time. We put so much pressure on ourselves to lose weight, exercise more, give up chocolate, be on time, save money, get a promotion - the list is endless. Although we mean well, all of this stress does nothing for our mental health and many people find themselves feeling depressed and anxious as a result.
In fact, this time of year is so notorious that the third Monday of January is now known as ‘Blue Monday.’ This is the day of the year where we apparently feel at our lowest because of factors such as travel chaos, lack of money, failed New Year’s resolutions and the cold, dark days.
If you find yourself struggling at this time of year, here are some top tips to help look after your mental health.
Make the most out of the daylight
Surveys have revealed a clear link between natural daylight, mood and motivation. At this time of year we don’t see much daylight so it’s not a big surprise that we often feel more down than usual. The good news is that there are little changes you can make to help avoid this. Try and sit near a window or somewhere with as much natural light as possible. As the temperatures plummet it might be tempting to stay at your desk at lunchtime but try and get out for even a quick walk as it will really help to boost your mood.
Set realistic New Year’s resolutions
Setting ourselves a target and then failing within a matter of weeks or even days is understandably going to make us feel bad about ourselves. Although New Year’s resolutions can be beneficial, most of us set ourselves unrealistic goals. You may say to yourself for example that your resolution is to go to the gym four times a week, every week. Although it’s great to aim for this, it’s also unrealistic.
You may have weeks where you’re snowed under with work, you’re ill, the kids are ill or something else comes up which means missing a session is unavoidable. In your eyes this means that you have failed at your resolution when nothing could actually be further from the truth. It’s much healthier to set targets that allow for leeway when necessary. Good examples include going to the gym more frequently and cooking more meals from scratch.
Talk about your feelings
Despite the fact that mental illness now affects one in four of us, we still find it difficult to talk about it. Opening up about your feelings not only helps you stay in good mental health, it also really helps to deal with the situation that’s troubling you. Whether it’s a friend, colleague, family member or counsellor, there is always somebody who is more than willing to lend a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.
There is a strong link between what we eat and how it makes us feel. A diet high in sugar, caffeine and bad fats gives you an initial rush but you then crash and feel awful for the rest of the day. The knock-on effect of this is that every day you wake up feeling tired and lethargic which means work will be a struggle and you certainly won’t feel like exercising.
It has been proven time and time again that exercise has huge benefits on our mental health. As well as making us feel better about ourselves, it releases endorphins which are the very things that make us feel happy. Regular exercise also boosts self-esteem, helps you to concentrate, promotes better sleep and makes you look and feel better. It that isn’t enough to convince you, being active also keeps the brain and other vital organs healthy.
Accept who you are
Trying to change who we are is bound to drive anyone crazy, yet we all do it. Whether we want to be thinner, funnier, more intelligent, more organised or a better listener, it seems we’re never quite happy with ourselves. Learning to accept yourself for who you are and liking that person is one of the hardest things to do but the impact it will have on your mental health is huge.
Do something you’re good at
If everyone had to name their harshest critic we would all say ourselves. A great way of looking after your mental health is to get out of this habit by focussing on the things you’re really good at. Running may not be your forte but don’t beat yourself up about it because there is absolutely no reason why you have to be good at it. Instead do an activity you are good at. This will make you feel much better about yourself and you can aim to get even better at it which is a real confidence booster.
If you think you could be struggling with mental health issues, please feel free to visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programmes Page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available. Or call: 01483 757 572.