Expert's tips on how to beat the January Blues
PUBLISHED: 13:04 14 January 2020
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Dr Alison Gardiner explains how to achieve good mental health at this time of year
The New Year should be a time filled with hope as we plan for the future, but it is common for many to experience the 'January blues'. But what is the difference between the January blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? And are there any remedies to help improve your mood at this time of year?
January blues are often situational, lasting a few weeks, and associated with the way we think and feel about a situation. For instance it could be the winter weather, returning to work after a holiday, a significant life event or worry over finances. If you experience an exaggerated form of the blues, lasting a few months, which is hindering your ability to enjoy life - from work to relationships - you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
"‘When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins, triggering a positive feeling in your mind’"
Symptoms of the blues and SAD are similar - there's a general lack of motivation with a sense of hopelessness, energy levels are low, sleep is disturbed, there's difficulty engaging, and appetite decreases. The main difference is the length of time these symptoms are experienced and also the feelings may be more exaggerated with SAD.
If you're experiencing depressive symptoms, even mild ones associated with the blues, it's important to recognise these and visit your GP to discuss a course of action, sooner rather than later. Being open and talking about these feelings, whether to a professional or close friends or family, can be a wonderful remedy.
Treatments for SAD include light therapy which replicates natural light via a special light box, talking-based treatments which include cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling or medication if symptoms are severe.
Top tips for nurturing good mental health:
-Create a 'happy pack'to refer too when feeling low - this could include items you love such as a favourite movie or book, bubble bath or aromatherapy candles
-Exercise regularly- when you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins, triggering a positive feeling in your mind. Exercise could include dancing to your favourite songs, swimming, an exercise or yoga class, or a brisk daily walk.
-Eat right- a Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil can benefit mood. Don't over-indulge in carbohydrates and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed as these all play a significant role in the quality of sleep we have.
- Be tech smart- being constantly connected to technology can have a negative impact on your mood. Switch off social media accounts and emails in the evening and read a book or have a bath with relaxing essential oils instead.
-Social contact - make a plan to see friends to help you stay connected.