Blue Monday is the third Monday of January and is usually tagged the most depressing day in the year. It’s called depressing because that Monday is a mix of bad weather, long nights, and the aftermath of the holiday season. During this period, it’s more difficult for workers, including behavioral health experts to handle personal and professional responsibilities.

The concept of Blue Monday was from 2005 during a press release from a holiday company and TV channel, Sky Travel. Dr. Cliff Arnall from Sky Travel claims to have discovered the date based on certain calculations. Even though there are no science-based explanations for Blue Monday, the date seems to affect behavioral health providers and even patients.

Here are some strategies that can help providers and patients overcome Blue Monday or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and anxiety during this period:

Always Try Getting Sunlight

Blue Monday falls in the winter period and there’s usually little sunlight during that time of the year. For this reason, both providers and clients need to get as much sunlight as possible during the day. Lack of sunlight may produce unstable and disruptive amounts of melatonin (sleep hormone) and serotonin (neurotransmitter affecting mood).

If it’s difficult to get sunlight, you should consider bright light therapy. Artificial light can also help keep one’s circadian rhythm on track and is the first treatment option for SAD [1]. A helpful way to utilize light therapy is by using a light therapy box.

Get Some Indoor or Outdoor Exercise

Similar to every form of depression, exercising is a significant way to help against wintertime blues. Exercise can also help alleviate weight gain, which is common with SAD. Outdoor exercise is an effective option for relieving SAD symptoms, especially because you may get sunlight in the early hours of the day [2].

If the cold or snow during the winter is a problem, indoor exercise is an alternative option. You can use treadmills, stationary bikes, or an elliptical machine.

Use Colors to Your Advantage

Colors, especially room color may affect one’s psychomotor activity and emotional state [3]. For this reason, it’s advisable to consider decorating with colors that create a feeling of warmth in your surroundings. Some suggestions are yellow, orange, and red.

Some colors to consider avoiding are cool colors like blue, green, purple, and blue. Those colors may affect one’s mood and cause feelings of sadness or negativity.

Plan for a Garden

Before or during winter time, you should start mapping out a garden to help with symptoms of SAD. Research shows that touching the soil can help increase serotonin, which improves mood and feelings of joy and happiness. The serotonin boost comes from mycobacterium vaccae, which is a soil bacteria known to affect serotonin in the prefrontal cortex [4].

Gardening may also make individuals feel more content and peaceful. It helps individuals focus their attention on immediate tasks. In some cases, the little details of gardening can help reduce negative thinking.

Grow Indoor Flowers

Growing indoor flowers and smelling them can help relieve anxiety and reduce significant levels of stress and alleviate depression. Flowers have an immediate effect on happiness and may also have long-term positive effects on mood.

Flowers like narcissus, hyacinths, and crocuses grow indoors in soil-less vases and bring the beauty and warmth of spring. Other flowers that grow indoors are Christmas Cactus, Amaryllis, Lipstick plant, Peace lily, and Flowering maple.

Take Vitamin D Supplements

A deficiency in vitamin D is a risk factor for symptoms of depression. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), low levels of vitamin D and low levels of sunlight exposure were common among individuals with SAD [5].

Consider taking some vitamin D supplements during winter to reduce feelings of depression. Most multivitamins typically contain 1,000 units of vitamin D, which increased from the previous 400 units. You can also consider opting for vitamin D foods like red meat, egg yolk, or oily fish like salmon or sardines.


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Socialize a Bit More

Social interactions can help reduce feelings of sadness during Blue Monday. Socialization reduces stress levels and has a huge impact on relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to a review article in The Lancelet, periods of isolation can have long-term negative effects on people, including symptoms of depression and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD).

As mental health providers, it’s imperative to find creative ways to stay in touch with others during times of increased isolation. Periods of the year like Blue Monday may make stepping out to visit a loved one difficult, but it’s advisable to make an effort.

Consider Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves using essential oils for therapeutic purposes. According to a study in the Yale Journal, essential oils can help reduce symptoms of depression and other mental health challenges like anxiety and insomnia [6].

Essential oils may have a significant effect on the region of the brain responsible for mood control and the circadian clock. The safe ways to utilize aromatherapy are through aroma sticks, body oils, and jewelry from absorbent materials.

Keep a Journal

Writing down thoughts and emotions has a positive effect on one’s mood. Adopting a habit of journaling can help get negative emotions out during the wintertime.

Journaling helps individuals cope with depression and SAD by prioritizing problems and identifying depression triggers. Journaling makes it easier to discover what made you feel better during those difficult periods.

TeleHealth For Providing Support

TheraNest can help providers serve patients who may not be feeling safe during this period with Telehealth. It’s a stress-free approach to quality therapy with its intuitive and integrated functions. Now, patients can benefit from a safer means of receiving care without major health risks. You don’t need to worry about driving to get help for mental health concerns.

With HIPAA compliance, clients can get the security they deserve in Telehealth. It’s also easy to use and providers can get to reach more people who need help. The virtual session reminders make it easy to send texts, emails, and other messages through the secure client portal. Sign up for a free 21-day trial to see how TheraNest can work for your practice.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746555/
  2. https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/move/easing-sad-effects-with-exercise
  3. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1172&context=jur
  4. https://www.colorado.edu/today/2017/01/05/study-linking-beneficial-bacteria-mental-health-makes-top-10-list-brain-research
  5. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/seasonal-affective-disorder
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7309671/