15 Jan Conquering Blue Monday
Statistics show that January is a tough month for mental health. For some of us it’s just the back to work blues getting us down or the financial stress or health fallout from overindulgence at Christmas. For others the holiday period is far from festive, serving as a painful reminder of loneliness or family breakdown. In fact mental health is so poor in January that the third Monday of the month has been pinpointed as a day of vigilance for suicide prevention, commonly known as ‘Blue Monday’.
Even if you’re feeling ok today and heading into 2018 full of good intentions and New Year resolutions, it’s important to remember that taking the time to focus on creating a healthy mind is just as important as working towards a healthy body. Stress is a normal emotional reaction to the challenges and difficulties of daily life and resilience is our ability to manage and cope with those feelings of stress. Thankfully, resilience is something that can be learned and cultivated, and these skills can be drawn on in challenging times to help us cope better with stressful life events and seasonal blues.
Today, special guest blogger Uniting counsellor Renee Klaasen shares her top tips for looking after your mental health this January and throughout the year:
1. Stay active.
The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise are well documented. You don’t need to join a gym to get the benefits, you could try a number of different activities that you enjoy to ensure you stay motivated (for example, swimming, taking the dog for a walk, dancing, yoga, bike riding or bush walking). If hitting the gym is your thing, you can also check out our Uniting Seniors Gyms.
2. Eat well.
Choosing healthy foods not only feeds our body, it feeds our minds as well. Making small changes at first is a good way to start to address your overall diet as you are more likely to stick to them. For example, swap processed snacks that are high in sugar for fresh food options (like fruit, vegetables, unsalted nuts and yoghurt with active cultures), swap white bread for a whole grain option that is higher in fibre and add oily fish like tuna, salmon and sardines to your weekly diet in order to receive the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Get a good night’s sleep.
You may have already noticed that not getting enough sleep leaves you feeling irritable and not as well equipped to deal with the challenges and demands of a busy life. Although the relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet clearly understood by science, it is thought that a good night’s sleep helps facilitate mental resilience. For some great ideas on how to get a good night’s sleep, jump over to our blog ‘Six tips for a better night’s sleep’.
4. Drink plenty of water and ease back on caffeine and alcohol.
Feeling stressed can lead to you increasing your consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Increasing your consumption of either of these substances can result in negative health implications over time, which can increase the amount of stress you experience. Drinking water on the other hand stops us from becoming dehydrated. Dehydration, even at low levels, can affect the way we think and feel. Drinking 6-8 cups of water a day is an ideal way to ensure our body and brain stays hydrated.
5. Take time to relax and feed your mind.
Make the time in your schedule each day to do something positive for yourself that relaxes you. For some this may be listening to calming music or painting, for others it may be going fishing or gardening and for some practicing simple breathing exercises, yoga and/or mindfulness does the trick. You don’t need to spend hours participating in relaxation activities to see the benefits. Adding ten minutes to half an hour to your daily routine can have a positive effect on reducing stress. There are some great resources and apps available to help you learn more about the benefits of mindfulness, including the Australian government’s Health Direct website, with some handy tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Find what works for you.
6. Connect with others.
One of the best ways to address stress is often just to talk about it. Stress is often the cause of a range of issues in our lives, whether it is work related, a problem at school or issues with family or friends. Talking through the issue with someone wise and trustworthy who will hear and be empathetic to your situation can help you to gain perspective and consider possible solutions to the stress you are experiencing. The knowledge that we are supported and listened to helps reduce feelings of isolation and stress significantly. You may also like to reach out to a qualified counsellor.
Let’s look after one another this January and throughout 2018. Share this blog to start the conversation and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
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Prolonged and severe periods of stress can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing. If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety or depression, consult your GP for information on appropriate support options, such as counselling.