What are some of the conditions affecting mental health in the UK? And how can you look after your mental well-being at work?
Today is Blue Monday, dubbed the most-bleak day in the calendar year.
This is down to a combination of factors, including January’s infamous cold and dark mornings, post-Christmas blues, and the long budget stretch after an early Christmas payday.
Not to mention the pre-existing concerns that loomed over many over the last year.
Now that the holidays have passed, and the joys of Christmas are already a distant memory, these factors compound and give us the ‘worst day in the calendar year’.
What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday might seem like a new phenomenon.
Maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it.
But this is not the case.
A psychologist named Cliff Arnall coined the concept of Blue Monday almost 20 years ago.
In 2004, Arnall was asked by the holiday firm Sky Travel to make a scientific name for the January blues.
Due to the factors we already discussed, Blue Monday is said to always occur on the third Monday of January. Unfortunately, this means that this year, it is today.
What does Blue Monday mean for your mental health?
Whilst Blue Monday has become a popular term, mental health and suicide prevention charity Samaritans have questioned its significance in recent years.
It is more important, they say, to focus on the facts and the proven conditions that affect people at this time of year (and beyond), like Season Affective Disorder and Anxiety.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (or its appropriate acronym, SAD) is common and is estimated to affect around two million people in the UK.
Sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’, SAD is a form of depression whose symptoms become more acute during winter months.
These symptoms include:
- A persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Feeling lethargic during the day, sleeping for longer than usual, and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
- Difficulty concentrating
~ via The NHS
Though the exact causes of SAD are unknown, the main line of thinking is that it is a result of the lack of exposure to sunlight during winter months, causing lower production of melatonin and serotonin in the body and depression-like symptoms.
How to treat SAD:
As a result of these causes, there are some ways you can combat SAD this winter.
To improve your mood, exercising regularly and getting as much natural sunlight as possible will help treat SAD. Talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and light exposure therapy are also recommended by the NHS as treatments for SAD.
As with a lot of mental health issues, getting help is vital.
The NHS takes SAD seriously and recommends seeing a GP if you think you are experiencing symptoms and struggling to cope.
For more information on how the NHS diagnoses and treats SAD, visit their website.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
You may be struggling this Blue Monday due to the anxieties of living in the modern age.
In 2023, there is a lot to be anxious about – and you won’t be alone if you are struggling.
There are three main types of anxiety: generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and health anxiety.
According to Mental Health UK, in the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time.
It is natural for us to feel anxious in our day-to-day lives, but when this goes beyond everyday worries and fears and becomes constant – it is classified as an anxiety disorder.
With Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), patients suffer from a long-term condition that causes them to feel anxious about multiple different situations rather than a single event.
The anxiety is often constant, and they regularly oscillate between feeling anxious about one thing to another.
Symptoms of GAD include:
- Feeling restless or worried
- Having trouble concentrating or sleeping
- Dizziness or heart palpitations
~ via the NHS
Symptoms vary from person to person and can be physical and mental.
Although we do not know the direct cause of GAD, it is likely down to a combination of factors like personal history, traumatic experiences/substance abuse, genetic inheritance and long-term health conditions.
Treatments for GAD:
Similar to SAD, GAD can be treated through a combination of self-health methods and external support. Exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and going on a self-help course are all NHS-recommended.
The NHS also recommends talking therapies and certain medications, known as SSRIs.
If anxiety is going beyond everyday worries and affecting your daily life, see a GP for support and help.
How to manage your mental health in the workplace
Your mental health impacts all aspects of your life.
And if work is where you spend most of your weekdays, whether at home or in the office, knowing how to take care of your mental health at work is of the utmost importance.
Thankfully, there are handy resources to help staff at all levels work together to better overall mental health in your workplace.
From Headspace for work to online guides and training schemes, you can do a lot for your team and their mental health simply by seriously engaging with the topic and making it less of a taboo subject.
This year, Samaritans have also launched Brew Monday to combat the January blues around Blue Monday.
This initiative encourages breaking taboos around mental health and talking about mental health candidly with one another. Learn more about Brew Monday on the Samaritans website.
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