The post-Christmas period can be tough: it’s dark, it’s cold and there’s no prospect of fun on the horizon. Many of us have overdone it on ‘festive cheer’ and may be feeling sluggish and overweight – not a good combination! Give yourself a New Year’s boost with our top tips.
Work out what’s wrong
Working out whether what you’re feeling is just a bit of gloom, or something more serious, is an important step in getting the appropriate help.
“Often people use the expression ‘I feel depressed’ when we’re feeling sad or miserable about life,” says Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind. “Ups and downs are a normal part of life and usually feelings of low mood pass in due course. But if the feelings are interfering with your life and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back for a few days at a time, over and over again, it could be a sign that you are experiencing depression.”
“If you experience these feelings each year at around the same time, you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In its mildest form, depression doesn’t stop you leading a normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live,” adds Beth.
“For mild depression, talking therapies can be helpful, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). For moderate to severe depression, antidepressants can help people manage their symptoms, but they work best when prescribed alongside talking therapies. Other types of therapy that have been found to be very useful include arts therapy, eco-therapy (outdoor activities), and physical exercise.”
Break the negative cycle
‘I need to do this task, but I can’t because I’m useless…‘ Does this sound familiar?
Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, and stress or tiredness can often lead to a barrage of negative thoughts that end up turning us into couch potatoes or seeking solace in the biscuit tin!“Try to recognise the pattern of negative thinking when you are doing it and replace it with a more constructive activity,” says Beth. “Look for things to do that occupy your mind, such as gardening, creative hobbies, physical activity or meeting a friend for coffee.”
Try not to be alone when you’re feeling low as this is when negative thoughts are sure to sneak in.
“Keeping in touch with people can help you feel a bit more grounded and sometimes get things in perspective,” says Beth. “A short phone call to a friend or relative, or even just an email or text message can lift your mood. You may also find it helpful to do something to help others – anything from volunteer work to looking after grandchildren for an hour or so can help take your mind off your own problems and make you feel better about yourself. “
Be ‘in the moment’
Meditation can be great way to block out those gloomy thoughts as well as helping you to enjoy ‘the moment’ and guarantee a good night’s sleep. There are lots of books, CDs and even free smartphone apps to help you find your inner calm or look out for classes in your local area.
Be kind to yourself
Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean you should deny yourself any treats!
“Allow yourself positive experiences and treats that reinforce the idea that you deserve good things,” Beth recommends. “A relaxing bath, a new haircut or a day out with a friend can make a huge difference. Setting yourself small goals that you can achieve will give you a sense of satisfaction. Finally, eat healthily – and cut down on tobacco and alcohol because they can make depression worse."
January invariably sees a stream of people heading to the gym to work off that festive excess, but this is one annual habit that’s worth keeping up – for the sake of your mind as well as your body. Whether it’s walking the dog, an exercise class or popping on a fitness DVD for half an hour, you’re sure to have a more positive outlook once your blood’s flowing.“Regular exercise can be very effective in lifting your mood, increasing energy levels, improving appetite and sleep,” says Beth. “Physical activity stimulates endorphins (chemicals in the brain) which can help you to feel better. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day.”
Christmas gives us something to look forward to as winter sets it, but afterwards it can often seem that there’s nothing good on the horizon, so be pro-active! Book your summer holiday now and mark it in the diary. Plan a weekend visit to a friend or family or just start saving the pennies to buy yourself something you’ve been hankering after – we all like to have something nice to look forward to!
- If you’re anxious that your low mood isn’t lifting and may be more than just the winter blues it’s important that you speak to your GP as there is help available. If you prefer, MIND has a confidential helpline offering information and advice. Call 0300 123 3393 or visit www.mind.org.uk
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