As the saying goes ‘what goes up must come down’ and for many of us, January is a time where our mental health can suffer. After a couple of weeks of relaxation, of socialising with family of friends and of indulging in (perhaps a bit too much!) food and drink, many of us will start to feel a creeping anxiety at the thought of facing our responsibilities once again. You might remember that difficult email that needs sending, that project that’s not finished, that deadline (which once seemed a million miles away) that’s now looming. All of the tasks that you had pushed to the back of your mind are now screaming at you from all angles! To add insult to injury, the third Monday in January is typically known as ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year. The dreaded ‘January blues’ are well and truly kicking in!
But don’t despair. The fear of returning to work is often far worse than the reality. Instead of thinking about a mountain of work that we are facing, focus on setting yourself small, achievable goals. January is a great time to clear out clutter. Try clearing your email inbox of all the old emails. De-clutter your desk. A clear working space does wonders for a clear mind.
Look out for each other
But for some of us, we may find that our mood doesn’t start to improve as we would like it to. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, but often we don’t treat our minds with the same respect that we do our bodies. It’s important to look out for your friends and colleagues. If you notice signs that they might not be OK, strike up a conversation and offer your support. Let them know you are there. Let them know that there are places they can go for help if they need it. They could visit their GP, or speak to their employer’s health team. Or perhaps they don’t want to disclose their difficulties to their employer – it’s important that you respect their wishes.
The Samaritans have published a list of tips to help you be an effective listener when having conversations with those experiencing difficulties – see their ‘SHUSH’ guide here.
It’s OK not to be OK
Our mental health is a spectrum that continually flows. Some days, you may feel able to handle whatever life throws at you; on others, you may struggle to get out of bed. Be patient with yourself. Remember to look after yourself and look out for each other. Keep the dialogue going with friends, family and colleagues and remember that it’s OK to not be OK.
Mental Health support
There are many charities and organisations who offer support and assistance to those who are suffering with mental health problems. Here are just a few:
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en If you’re struggling financially after Christmas, the Money Advice Service offers free, impartial advice including advice on managing money with mental health difficulties. As well as offering loads of advice on their website, they have a free helpline on 0800 138 7777 available Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
https://www.mind.org.uk/ Mind provides information on a comprehensive list of mental health problems including anxiety, panic attacks, anger, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, eating problems, self-esteem problems and more.
https://www.headstogether.org.uk/ Heads Together is a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, which combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services.
https://youngminds.org.uk/ Young minds is a charity that supports the mental health and well-being of children and young people. They have a parents helpline: 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm, free for mobiles and landlines) and they offer lots of useful tools and resources for professionals who work with children and young people.
https://papyrus-uk.org/ Papyrus is a charity which works to prevent suicide in children and young people. They have a specialist telephone service called Hopeline which is staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgemental support, practical advice and information to children, teenagers and young people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone who is concerned about a young person. You can call Hopeline on 0800 068 4141; or text 07786209697; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Their opening hours are: 10am – 10pm weekdays; 2pm – 10pm weekends; 2pm – 10pm bank holidays.