Many people experience low mood in the post-holiday rush at the start of the New Year. Learn why depression is common around this time and how to cope with the January blues.
January kickstarts the New Year, bringing new resolutions and a flurry of fresh activity. Unfortunately, it also brings Blue Monday and the January Blues, so it may be a good idea to seek help from a Berkeley Psychologist. Blue Monday, usually the third Monday of January, has been dubbed the most depressing day of the year.
This melancholy Monday is thought to be fueled by bad weather, Christmas debt, guilt about overindulging during the holiday, failure to stick to New Year’s resolutions, and low motivation to work after the merry times. The scientific formula behind Blue Monday was later debunked, but the January Blues may be a real phenomenon for the same reasons.
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January Blues Definition
The January Blues refers to a set of negative emotions that many people experience at the start of the New year and throughout January. People may experience different negative emotions, such as anxiety, worry, guilt, shame, and low self-esteem.
This common period of low mood is triggered by many factors, mainly the transition from the highs of happy holidays back to the monotony of regular routines. During this period, one may be anxious because they overspend during the holidays and worry about surviving financially through January.
Or perhaps, they may feel guilt and shame at the extra pounds they picked up and how their clothes no longer fit properly. The realization that the party is over and it’s now time to resume the daily grind of work can also cause seasonal depression or dysphoria. In areas where January coincides with winter, the cold temperatures, low amount of sunlight, and lack of quality outdoor time only worsen the situation.
Research shows that winter months and the combination of shorter days and less sunlight can result in a decline in energy levels. This is a natural response by the body, much in the same way that bears hibernate when the weather gets colder.
However, in a fast-paced society, where one is expected to accumulate as many working hours as possible, a lower motivational level and decreased physical activity are often viewed negatively. Yet these quiet and slow times can be used constructively to recharge and re-energize for the coming months.
What are the Effects of the January Blues?
Some people find it difficult to shake off the January blues. This triggers even more negative emotions, such as frustration, which can be painful. As mentioned, people thrive on stimuli, and there’s plenty of stimuli to be found in the season of joy, from all the festivities, shopping, food, gifts, and quality time with loved ones.
However, this quickly fades as the reality of winter and January’s quietness sets in, and explains why January depression can lead to addiction, as some people use alcohol or drugs for stimuli. In addition, others may want to avoid the realities of Christmas bills, credit card debt and being broke in January. Too many people suffer in silence and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.
However, addiction only causes more problems and can be avoided by seeking help. January blues can also affect your performance at work or school. It can result in a vicious cycle of hopelessness and inability to concentrate on everyday things, causing the negative emotions to spiral out of control and further affecting your performance.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Vs the January Blues
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression or mood disorder associated with a lack of light. It’s also known as major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern or “winter depression.” This condition is more common in areas that receive very little sunlight at certain times of the year.
SAD shares some common symptoms with the January blues, including low mood, tiredness, low self-esteem, changes in sleep, appetite, and libido, difficulty concentrating, and social withdrawal.
The January blues can be a natural period of feeling down in the dumps after the holidays. However, SAD is a more serious condition that requires an official diagnosis and should never be ignored. SAD is usually diagnosed if you experience depression during the same period of the year for at least two years, but your mental health is otherwise fine in other seasons.
How to Cope With January Depression
The good news is there are a few things you can do to combat the January blues. These effective tips will ensure you can sail ahead from the season of joy into the new season without a slump.
Feed Your Social Needs
People have different social needs, so they experience January blues differently. Introverts need time alone to recharge their batteries, while extroverts use social events to boost their mood. If you’re an introvert, your low mood in January might be caused by social event fatigue following the holidays.
The best thing you can do is give yourself a break, focus on self-care, and spend more time in non-social situations. On the other hand, if you’re an extrovert, the lack of festivities and other social activities in January can deplete your social meter quickly. You can improve your mood by actively arranging dates with family and friends.
Whether you’re planning a weekend barbeque, meeting friends for drinks after work, or volunteering at a shelter, your outgoing and sociable nature will keep thriving even if things are slow in January.
Get More Vitamin D From the Sun
If the darker winter months are partly responsible for your January blues, it’s important to go out of your way and get as much sunlight as possible. The right balance of sunlight can help lift your mood and reduce January depression.
That’s because when your skin is exposed to sunlight, the UVB energy is used to manufacture vitamin D. One of the common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is depression, feelings of sadness, fatigue, and not sleeping well. All this can quickly rob you of your good cheer as the bright weather becomes dull and dreary.
Make it your mission to spend more time outdoors. You can also increase the natural light in your home by opening the curtains and blinds, keeping the windows clean, and ensuring nothing is blocking the windows and the passage of light.
Create Your Own Light at the End of the Tunnel
The holiday period before the start of the New Year is often exciting and fun. It’s normal to keep wanting more of that, and you can easily experience low mood if you have nothing to look forward to in January. Thankfully, you can create your own light at the end of the tunnel by planning something fun for a future date.
This should be something that you enjoy and the thought of which lifts your mood. Examples include a weekend trip, hosting a game night, going to a spa, or watching a movie. Mark the day on your calendar and focus on making the day or event more fun and memorable.
Try Fasting From Social Media
Spending too much time on social media can make things worse when you’re feeling down. That’s because your mental health affects how you interpret things, and in this case, it can promote feelings of inadequacy about your life or appearance.
So, for example, if your waistline is bulging more than usual from Christmas cake, seeing airbrushed images of other people’s seemingly perfect bodies can trigger body dysmorphia. Similarly, if your social media friends appear to be enjoying life, the feeling of missing out can result in low self-esteem and social anxiety.
It’s best to avoid excessive use of social media when experiencing low mood. Instead, connect with your family and friends in other ways, such as through phone calls and in-person meetings.
Understand That January Blues Are Normal
Feeling a little blue after the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season? There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. It’s a completely normal phenomenon, and many people experience low mood at the same time.
Understanding that the January blues are normal ensures you don’t waste energy beating yourself over it and can spend more time focusing on regaining your balance. Besides the tips mentioned above, there are many other ways to cope with January depression.
Make sure you exercise regularly to release more endorphins (feel-good hormones), and staying fit helps improve self-esteem. You should also eat a healthy balanced diet and get adequate sleep to keep your mood vibrant.
Avoid making unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, as this only sets you up for failure and encourages depressive tendencies. Most importantly, getting professional help from a qualified mental health expert can work wonders and help you beat the January blues.
Need Help Coping With the January Blues?
The longer you deal with the January blues, the longer they can take their toll on you. This is especially so if you’re experiencing low mood caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder, resulting in serious depressive episodes.
Although there are some helpful tactics for coping with January depression on your own, speaking with a mental health professional is one of the most effective ways of ensuring a more positive start to the new year.