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How to protect your mental health ahead of 'Blue Monday'

'With the shorter days comes less productivity and you see that trend happening in mid-to-late January,' explained Bradford West Gwillimbury registered psychotherapist, Shagun Sharma
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January 16 this year marks 'Blue Monday,' the most depressing day of the year. It’s when the financial pressures of the holidays start to catch up, new year’s resolutions start to fall through, it gets darker outside earlier, and weather pushes people to spend more time inside.

Though it’s not scientifically supported as the most depressing day of the year, 'Blue Monday' falls on the third Monday in January and those factors do play a role in impacting mental health.

“I don’t look at Blue Monday as a thing, but I find mid-to-late January is when you see an uptick in clients coming in,” said Shagun Sharma, a registered psychotherapist in Bradford West Gwillimbury. “There are quite a few reasons for this, one is there is a loss of those holiday festivities as you’re going back to work and school.”

The shock of going from the relaxation of the holiday season to getting back to the normal day-to-day workweek, or school week, is one of the bigger factors that can weigh on people.

“You’re back to the grind and there are shorter days, there’s less time for doing things you want to be doing,” explained Sharma. “With the shorter days comes less productivity and you see that trend happening (with more clients) in mid-to-late January.”

There are ways to help counter that seasonal depression and physical health is a key piece to the puzzle.

“It’s definitely a biopsychosocial thing, it’s important to look at physical health, social, mental, and emotional,” said Sharma. “It’s really good to keep your body moving, that can be doing a five-minute stretch on your break during working hours. Eating healthy is important, vitamin D is directly related to your serotonin. It’s about making your body feel good in that way.”

Reaching out to resources is another beneficial way to help during the more difficult times in the winter.

“Whether that’s family, friends, a crisis line, or therapy,” said Sharma. “Those things are really important.”

Another big thing Sharma finds with Blue Monday and seasonal affective disorder after the holidays is that new year’s resolutions tend to start not going the way people had planned.

“People feel a lot more unmotivated after that, so you just need to be kinder to yourself,” she explained. “Keep your expectations at a level that feels authentic and manageable to you. Self-cheerleading is one thing that I would definitely recommend during that time.”

Mental health resources can be found here through CMHA Simcoe County.