As the year begins, we often lose ourselves in a whirlwind of New Year’s resolutions and reflections. Like many, I dread this time of year; it feels like I’m waking up with a severe holiday hangover. The last two weeks, no, the last month—a red and green blur of wrapping paper, overindulgence, and one too many alcohol units. And all I have to show for it is the looming credit card statement. With the festivities over, we collectively settle in for winter to begin. Instead of the arrival of Father Christmas or celebrations with friends and loved ones, we’re now anticipating the next ‘stormageddon’ event, hoping that the incoming polar vortex hits on Sunday evening so we don’t have to commute to work the next day.
Online, I’m washed over by a glamorous facade – New Year, New You…shed the pounds, get bikini ready, manifest your destiny, work 10 hours a week, and make 100k a month. This overwhelming positivity is countered by the realness of declarations of resilience, ‘This year I was tested more than ever, I lost, I won, I failed, I cried, I learned, but I am still here!’ – a narrative I’m more familiar with.
Amidst this, Blue Monday looms on the horizon, a day often labeled as the most depressing of the year. But at Give an Hour, we recognize this as a myth, and possibly one that perpetuates a damaging stigma we’re working to end.
Mental health is not a one-day event. It’s an ongoing journey that requires daily attention and care. The concept of Blue Monday trivializes the serious nature of mental health issues, ignoring the fact that emotional wellness is a constant and sometimes daily battle for many. This time of year, significantly, can heighten our awareness of daily struggles such as SAD (seasonal affective disorder). SAD is a form of depression that people experience usually during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. Psychology Today reported that SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, and another 10% to 20% may have mild symptoms.
To those who are hurting…We hear you.
As I settled back into my daily struggles, my anxiety and depression loomed like an ominous cloud over my bed. It’s not difficult to see why this is such a difficult time of year for many people. There’s a heightened awareness, perhaps a quiet, still reflection, as we take time to process and take stock of everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve overcome, all the lessons we’ve been forced to learn—and for some of us, the cold embrace of reality: a realization that the daily battle for emotional wellness never ends.
Wellness is something we have to work on, strive for, and actively participate in every day. And wellness is often discovered in the smallest of victories, a slow accumulation of positive actions over time that gives us small moments of joy. A brisk morning walk, those five minutes where I hit snooze on the alarm, the warm cuddles I enjoy with my son before he takes his morning dash through the shower—in and out so quickly, he barely gets wet. My golden retriever, Loki, who showers me with a tornado of white fur every morning as he zoomies around the living room, simply happy to see me—happy to know I exist. Or even the more covert victories, like switching out my extra tall, whipped vanilla-cream-foam-topped latte for that hemp smoothie. Even the satisfying grimace of watching my poor husband eat a bowl of oatmeal instead of that loaded breakfast sandwich I know he’s craving…these little fragments of empowered wellness lead me, and by extension those around me, towards a more hopeful future.
So let Monday be blue because maybe Tuesday can be yellow…or maybe it’s purple! And let us paint a rainbow across 2024 as we recognize that everyone has mental health – every day. As we embrace the new year, let’s shift our focus from fleeting resolutions to a more sustainable approach to mental wellbeing. Every day is an opportunity to foster our mental health, to understand its intricacies, and to support those around us. Let’s make every day a day for mental health awareness, moving beyond the misleading simplifications of Blue Monday.
For free mental health resources, visit our library of wellness tools at HERE.
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