Blue Monday, which took place on Monday, is a timely reminder to protect our mental health at the start of a new year, which can only be helpful, according to RedArc.
With that in mind, Alison Simmons, Senior Mental Health Nurse from RedArc has put together seven self-care tips for lifting employees’ mood during the winter months – particularly useful for the 29%* of UK adults who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
She, commented: “It doesn’t matter whether staff have been diagnosed with SAD, have the winter blues, or are feeling low for any another reason, the short hours of daylight and the hangover from indulging financially or otherwise over the festive period can exacerbate the impact on energy levels, self-esteem, anxiety or depression. The impact of the pandemic and the current national lockdown can only exacerbate these feelings.”
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Typical symptoms include:
- Losing interest in activities normally enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Alison Simmons, continued: “It’s important that those suffering with persistent feelings of low mood, stress or anxiety contact their GP who needs to be aware of how they are feeling, and can provide support and signposting. Another excellent source of help is the Samaritans when people need someone to talk to. However, for employees with less severe symptoms, there is a lot that employees can do to encourage self-care.”
Employers should encourage the following behaviours in staff:
- Spend time in daylight: for those who have to be indoors, open blinds, sit closer to the window and trim back any overgrown trees to let the light in. Go outside when you can to walk, eat lunch or simply sit and soak up the winter sun – the benefits are exaggerated if you spend time outside within two hours of waking.
- Physical activity: Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety. Increasing your fitness can make you feel better about yourself too, which can lift your mood. Try to find an exercise you are capable of and enjoy as you’ll be more motivated, whether that be HIIT, gardening, going for a bike ride or for those less mobile exercise such as sitting cardio or yoga, and there are plenty of free classes available online).
- Meditation: Meditation can give a sense of calm, peace and balance and help keep you living in the moment. Access breathing exercises, guided meditations, mindfulness activities, visualisation exercise and positive affirmations via apps and online.
- Relaxation: Try to move away from screen time too and find time to relax in other ways, whether it’s doing a hobby that you already enjoy or finding a new activity to learn.
- Maintain connections: The pandemic has made this harder for some but try to make meaningful connections with people. Find new ways of interacting with those in your household or bubble or simply pick up the phone for conversation for those further afield.
- Gratitude and kindness: developing a habit of recognising the good things in life and being grateful for them as well as being kind to yourself and other people, can lead to positive and fulfilling feelings. Journaling can be a great way to reflect and remind yourself of this.
- Light therapy: Some people find that light boxes can help by simulating sunlight exposure. The brain is fooled into producing less melatonin, resulting in feeling less sleepy.
Alison Simmons, concluded: “Many individuals will be able to access additional support from a registered mental health nurse for professional advice, guidance and support, via their employee benefits, insurances, membership organisations or other routes. A supportive conversation from a qualified professional may be all that is needed to help some employees but others may require written materials, signposting to local services and charities as well as additional structured psychological therapy.
Whether someone receives additional support or not, the ability to administer self-care is a vital element in helping an individual maintain their mental wellbeing on a day-to-day basis. January is the ideal time to kick-start these good habits.”
January is wellbeing month at PA Life and for more top tips sign up to the PA Life Newsletter.