When Are The January Blues Not Just The January Blues
Also known as the February blues, March blues, oh god please I just need some sun now there’s nothing good in my life blues.
I don’t really know of anyone who doesn’t feel a little bit down once the Christmas magic has passed, the mornings are dark and cold and empty, and the reality of being back at work has set in. Apart from those clever bastards who book a holiday abroad for the first week or two of January, and escape both the back to work and the endless cold mornings.
Many companies are tailoring their advertising right now to capitalise on the idea of ‘the January blues’, taking advantage of the fact that everyone is longing for just a little something to brighten up the grey skies, and trying to make you fill the void with stuff.
Stuff you inevitably don’t need, and stuff you really shouldn’t buy after splashing so much cash in December.
Ignoring the branded messaging at this time of year can be so hard when it seems like the sun will never come back again and you just want to feel the warmth on your skin, and head out of the house without bundling up in approximately 300 layers.
The January blues are normal.
We can all bitch about them as the kettle boils, and justify taking an extra biscuit from the tin just to liven up the long afternoon spent listening to Karen from HR bitching about her other half.
But what happens when the January blues aren’t just the January blues?
You have probably heard of a condition called ‘SAD’, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The lack of sunlight in these harsh winter months can really wreak havoc with some people’s moods, and plunge them into a depression that lifts during the summer - only to raise it’s head once more when the nights draw in.
You might recognise this pattern within yourself, but find it hard to speak up when it seems like everyone is moaning about feeling down.
There’s a difference between the January blues - arguably brought on by the season of excess and indulging in one too many eggnogs - and true SAD though.
The symptoms of SAD
The symptoms of SAD are almost identical to the symptoms of regular depression with only one key difference - your mood lifts when the seasons change. (In some people this can be reversed - they struggle with SAD during the summer, but feel better during the winter months).
If you are struggling with a persistent low mood, you’ve lost interest in your usual activities, feel lethargic during the day, and find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, it might be time to visit a doctor.
They’ll be able to tell you whether or not you do indeed have SAD, but there’s truly no harm in going and seeking that help for yourself. Even if it turns out that it’s not SAD for some reason, advocating for your own mental health and recognising when something isn’t right is the most important thing you can do for you.
They’ll also be able to suggest ways to helping you to feel better - that isn’t splashing cash you might not have on material possessions or an unplanned week in the sun. Whether that’s medication or talking therapies, you don’t have to spend the next three months feeling the way you are right now.
Before you even go to the doctor you could look into getting a SAD light. They’re specially designed lights that mimic natural sunlight, and regular use has been shown to reduce the effects of SAD (and even the January blues) in people.
And remember ‘even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise’.
Before we know it summer will be upon us again, and we’ll all be back at the kettle moaning about how hot it is outside, how it’s impossible to dress for the weather, and dreaming of snow, threatening to book a skiing break.
This season will pass and you will feel better again. It’s possible, even if you need that extra little helping hand through it.
Keep an eye on your mood, plan activities with friends that get you out of the house and laughing, and go speak to your GP if you need to. Your mental health is important. Make 2019 the year you look after it.