Blue Monday – ideas for transforming mood
At the time of writing, the sun is shining and there are large patches of bright blue breaking through the ominous rain clouds in the sky. Coming on the back of days of darkening skies and rain, this is a welcome change. It helps us to feel more positive and more able to deal with the pressures of the day ahead.
It will come as no surprise to many that so-called “Blue Monday” falls on the third Monday in January. Known as “the most difficult day of the year”, the concept was an attempt to explain the January blues, and apparently to give a boost to a travel company selling winter getaways! It appears that there is no real science behind the notion, but the fact that feeling low or “blue” appears to be a reasonably common experience in January cannot be denied.
This year seems to be especially challenging as many battle respiratory viruses. Coughs, colds, flu and Covid are ripping through classrooms already, adding to the strength and energy needed to get through each day. It’s tough and it’s worth acknowledging that.
However, the Samaritans are keen to rebrand “Blue Monday” as “Brew Monday” – a day when we make time for a cuppa and a catch up with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones. They say, “We all have our good days and bad days, and those aren’t for the calendar to decide”. It’s a great philosophy to follow. However common it is for people to struggle through the darkest, coldest months, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a challenging time, and if it is, there is help out there.
Regardless of the day of the week or month of the year, if any day is blue for you or anyone you know, these ideas for support may help:
How can we maintain our wellbeing?
- Boundaries: When we are not feeling our best, or when life seems to be more about survival than enjoyment and thriving, we need to set some tight boundaries and stick to them. Overload is more likely when we are not feeling our best so time needs to be preserved for repairing and restoring. This is not time to be filled with duty or mundane tasks. It is purely for filling up your wells of wellbeing. Whatever does it for you, plan it, look forward to it, and do it.
- Be a good listener: keys to good listening are no judgement, no advice, and no over-relating. This is about hearing what is being said and understanding how this affects the speaker. You can ask if they would like some advice, or if they would like to be signposted to information or guidance, but the most important thing is for the speaker to be heard. Good listening is a skilled art. We do it for others, that they may do it for us.
- Visible help: Make sure that there are visible notices around your school detailing how staff can get emotional support. The back of toilet doors, staff noticeboards, the back of the staffroom door are all good places to post this information. Having a no questions asked staff drop in helps too. A space in which feelings can be aired and support offered.
- Get physical: when the winter blues hit, we probably don’t feel inclined to get moving. The warmth of a blanket seems much more appealing. But exercise really does help us to feel better about the challenges facing us. And there is plenty of evidence to support that: Benefits of exercise - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Bring nature indoors: It’s not going to improve the structural issues with education, or tackle workload in and of itself. However, bringing nature indoors can really brighten your environment and offer a temporary lift. And when the days are gloomy and challenging, that is definitely worth something. A bunch of flowers, some indoor pot plants (spider plants reproduce at a colossal rate so you’d soon have a free plant for every room!) or some foraged foliage is all it takes for some restorative nature connectedness. There’s evidence of the efficacy of nature connectedness here Finding Nature | Nature Connectedness Research Blog by Prof. Miles Richardson.
- Ramp up the compassion: as we reflect on how we are feeling about blue Monday, it can be easy to get wrapped up in personal grief and challenges. But if things are tough for us, there’s a chance they could be tough for others too. Dial up the compassion for others, and give a little extra benefit of the doubt. It all helps.
Whatever our darker or more challenging months bring us, one thing we must remember is that change will come. No situation lasts forever, good or bad. If we are struggling now, we won’t be struggling forever. If times are difficult now, they will ease in time, as we implement changes or as situations naturally develop, or as we change the way we think about them. And yet it can be so hard to fully take this on board when in the thick of what grieves us. So, if Blue Monday is getting you down, seek help, and know that one thing is certain – change is coming.
Find out more…
- Everything you need to take part in Brew Monday can be found on the Samaritan’s site, here: Brew Monday 2023 | #BrewMonday |There's always time for a cuppa and a catch-up (samaritans.org)
- Need support? Call the Samaritans on 116123 to speak to someone.
- Education Support, supporting teachers and education staff
- If you're worried about someone else | Samaritans
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.