It’s the third Monday of January and the most miserable day of the year: Blue Monday.
“There’s a bit of a myth to Blue Monday,” said Jonny Morris, chief executive officer of the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s B.C. division. “I mean, historically, it’s been described as the saddest or the bluest day of the year.”
But experts say there’s no real science behind Blue Monday. It was created as a marketing strategy by a U.K. travel company to encourage people to go on vacation in January.
Although it’s not really the gloomiest day, there is some truth to the ‘blue’ in Blue Monday.
“For many people across the province, there have been many blue Mondays, blue Tuesdays,” Morris noted.
With shorter days, colder weather and holiday bills on the minds of many British Columbians, the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder are negatively impacting mental health. All this, on top of a global pandemic.
“We’re sort of compounding two different problems that can each make for a more difficult month,” said Brianna Turner, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria. “So, we’ll probably see slightly higher rates of people who do experience that low mood or people who are experiencing a bit more anxiety than they normally would.”
Canadians are reporting the highest levels of anxiety and depression to date, according to a recent survey completed by Mental Health Research Canada. Anxiety levels have quadrupled since before the pandemic and depression has more than doubled.
“I think for some people, it feels like 2020 was a really long year,” explained Turner. “We were hoping 2021 would be different and now we’re realizing we’re still in this for a while longer, so people are feeling disappointed, feeling a little bit anxious or worn out, feeling burnt out with how they’ve had to live their lives.”
But you can still beat the blues, Turner said. Exercise is one way to do that.
“If you’re able to get out and go for a walk or a hike or do an online yoga class, maybe lift some weights at home if you have the equipment, that can be a real natural mood booster,” she said.
Turner also suggests acts of kindness for others — like baking cookies for a neighbour — or doing things that will make you feel good about yourself.
Morris added if people are noticing big changes from their normal day-to-day routine that last for a couple weeks or longer, then it might be time to get in touch with a health professional.
This includes changes in sleeping habits, appetite changes, and low energy doing things that you normally enjoy.
The 24-hour mental health support line can be accessed anywhere in B.C. at 310-6789 (no area code).