Don’t let Blue Monday get to your head

Life Lessons

Don’t let Blue Monday get to your head

This time of year, Christmas has come and gone. We’re tired of the cold, dreary weather. And our finances are still reeling from the holidays.

Dr. Cliff Arnall coined January 15th as ‘Blue Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year – for the unfortunate mix of these mood-crushing factors.

It’s totally bogus, though. In fact, he’s since apologized for trivializing a serious condition that affects people year-round, not just January 15th.

While the theory of ‘Blue Monday’ has been disproved, the start of the year is still a good time to reflect on your wellbeing and where you can make improvements.

Here are three ways to bust the Blue Monday myth by turning it into a day of positivity and self-improvement.

Money matters

We’d all love to say that money doesn’t matter. For most of us, it could never beat the valuable time and experiences we share with our loved ones. But financial concerns take a toll on our mental wellbeing.

The UK-based Money and Mental Health Policy Institute says that money worries are the biggest cause of stress to the working population, people with debt are twice as likely to develop major depression. According to Bloomberg, the average American household credit card debt reached nearly $750 billion at the end of 2016 – so lots of people are at risk.

Use January as a fresh start. A great first step is to make sure you’re taking advantage of financially-focused benefits that your employer provides.

Seizing subsidized gym memberships and other discount perks can help build savvy spending habits. Enrolling in Life, Disability and Critical Illness coverage – all which provide financial protection should the unexpected occur – are critical keys to building financial resilience.

This helps prevent unexpected events, like being injured or getting an unexpected diagnosis, from devastating for your finances – allowing you to focus on recovery.

The holidays – on the other hand – should be an expected expense. They happen every year. In 2016, the average family spent just under $1,000 on holiday items. Set a reminder on your calendar to start saving in the summer so you’re better prepared. Here are five other ways to avoid holiday credit card debt.

Practice self-care

There’s a popular saying: Keep calm and carry on. And while that sounds Zen and all, it’s not always easy to maintain emotional resilience.

In the workplace, we’re challenged with the “always-on” caveat of technology. It’s great to stay connected and take work on-the-go when needed, but we also need to carve out time for ourselves where we turn off work.

Use January to build ‘me time’ in your schedule before your year fills up with to-dos, and don’t compromise the time you set aside for yourself unless absolutely necessary.

A survey about stress levels found that people who have a family member or friend they can turn to for emotional support are less stressed. Just talking to another person about what’s on our minds can be cathartic.

For that extra level of attention, your employer might also have an Employee Assistance Program, which provides one-on-one emotional support.

Weather the weather

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing. It’s a type of depression that fluctuates with the seasons. While the exact cause is unknown, medical professionals think it’s linked to reduced exposure to sunlight.

Tips to battle the winter blues include making your environment brighter, eating smarter, exercise, getting outside, and turning on tunes. These activities can boost serotonin, which affects your mood, appetite and sleep cycles.

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