The third Monday in January has been coined, "Blue Monday." It all began when a travel company in the UK to try to sell winter vacations based on people getting the winter blues mid-winter, according to Prairie Rose Guidance Counselor and Private Practice Counsellor and Therapist with Kelly Vipond Mental Health Kelly Vipond. Vipond helps people virtually in Manitoba. She recently obtained her master's in counselling psychology with distinction.
She said this is the most depressing day of the year, especially for those living in the Northern Hemisphere.
"January and February tend to be notoriously cold, especially in the Manitoba prairies. We've been lucky so far this year, but now, as the weekend has kind of hit us with this cold and the winter storm, this is really kind of a recipe for people to be locked in, for people to hunker down. And, if we are forced to do that a lot in these dark days, we can start to really feel down."
Vipond described the blues as feeling a lack of motivation and more exhaustion, although it can be different for some.
"But often the winter blues can feel a little bit like depression, and that shows up for people differently as well. Sometimes there's a very mental component to that, where we start to feel really negatively about the world, we start to feel more tired, and so we do a lot less. And then when we do a lot less, we're not activating ourselves in the same way and not activating our nervous system, so our body starts to feel tired. It shows up for me as feeling heavy and not having any energy or motivation to do anything."
There are some things people can do to lessen the blues, such as balancing sleeping and eating habits, even adding Vitamin D to your diet. She stressed the importance of finding a way to move your body in ways that feel fulfilling for you. For some that is stretching or a dance party or weightlifting or even walking outside, although it is a challenge with the frigid temperatures at this time of year.
There are other ways to move forward.
"Making sure that you take up indoor hobbies, like music or crafting. Creativity is a great way to move any emotion you need to move. And then, connecting with your people. Winter is traditionally this time for storytelling and sharing, and being creative with the people that you love and the people that you care about. And so, making sure that you're connecting with other people. That means going to church, or we're going on a coffee date with our besties, or whatever that looks like. Those are all really important ways to cope."
Vipond said active listening is a hard, but helpful, way to support someone in your life that is feeling down.
"People don't necessarily need advice, unless they ask for it. And so, often people who are in the depths of the winter blues, if they start to tell you about it, more than likely they're not looking for you to tell them what to do. They just need someone to listen to how hard it is and sometimes that's really hard for us to do. So, if you're not sure how to support a person when they start talking to you, ask them, 'Are you looking for me to just listen, right now? Or do you need some advice? How can I help?'"
She admitted it can be difficult.
If you don't live with the person she suggested calling, sending a message or taking them out to do something they enjoy doing or go over to their place and do something with them that they enjoy.
She cautioned if the feeling lasts longer than two weeks and is deepening, it may be time to get some help from a mental health professional to give you the tools to move forward.
She had one last piece of advice for those feeling shame about having the blues.