Do you get the Monday morning blues? What is a blue Monday anyway? What is Blue Monday?
How do you prepare for
We talk about the Monday Blues and now we seem to have a much publicised day (Blue Monday) when not long after the New Year life as we know it crashes around our ankles. Ok, maybe not quite so dramatic…
Let’s talk about the Monday blues first and then consider this ‘day’ that is supposed to be the bluest of the year.
The Monday blues
For many years I would drag myself out of bed and head into work. The journey in smoggy traffic would smother my energy. Driving along I would cast a glance over, and there would be other Monday morning blues people, all sitting bleary-eyed and equally miserable on their nose to nose journey to their destination for the day – the job…
Monday was always the worse day of the week. Some say Tuesday when already the weekend seems so far away. I didn’t feel it, Tuesday was well Tuesday and a day when I was able to settle into what needed to be achieved. It’s all about perception, isn’t?
Back then every Monday was a blue Monday.
When I worked in the Tax office, you could accrue flexi-time, and so I always came in early and worked hard so that I could have a half day on Friday. It was heaven, it motivated me and gave me something to look forward too.
In another job, I can still picture my arrival at work ritual. While sitting in the car, I’d take a few deep breaths and really let them go. As I approached the office door (glass), I would check my body language and smile. Whomever I met I would offer a big fat cheery ‘hello, how are you, isn’t it a fab day’ (or words to that effect). If I was asked how I was, it was ‘bloody marvellous’ (or something equally irritatingly cheerful). It was all about making a choice to be happy even though I may not have been ecstatic about what I was doing for the day.
When I arrived home, I’d often walk, and at bedtime, I would always journal. I needed to release the day, change my perspective and make different choices about each day’s experiences. I needed to learn from that days story. My journal as ever was my saviour.
Fast forward to today. I’m self-employed, I have much more responsibility, there is just me and any outsourced resources I use. The difference is I make conscious choices about what I want to feel and create in the hours I have available. I use my time more efficiently, taking regular breaks and flexing that time so that I am more effective.
I work in a way that works for me and dare I say it, my sanity.
I start my day with a short meditation, journaling, writing and connecting with my groups. I find writing sets my day up well.
As I write this, there are two dogs on my bed, one snoring rather nicely and one in the lounge listening to the news. She will alert me if there is something I need to listen to. When the writing is done, I walk with them and connect with Mother Nature – my thinking time.
In this reflective space, I run through what I need to achieve for the day. I let random thoughts come to me, and if I need to capture anything, I’ll record it. The evening before I will have planned out what I need to do and I have learned that things take a lot longer than you think, so I set myself up for success by not over planning.
Because of the tools I have equipped myself with, Mondays are no longer blue.
Where did Blue Monday come from?
In doing some research into this Blue Monday phenomenon, I came across many interesting articles. The most well known story of course is Dr Cliff Arnall’s.
It’s strange how things take off, isn’t it? I am sure that Dr Arnall who first conceived of Blue Monday didn’t expect the current reaction to it. Back in 2005, he came up with a formula for calculating the most depressing day in the year.
Apparently, the date was calculated by using factors, such as the weather conditions, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action (and probably failing at that too).
In 2018, Arnall told The Independent newspaper that it was “never his intention to make the day sound negative”, but rather “to inspire people to take action and make bold life decisions”. Dr Arnall went on to partner with Virgin to challenge the perception of Blue Monday.
This year, by the way, Monday 21st January is Blue Monday. Blue Monday is always the third Monday of January.
First of all, how depressing is that? Perpetuating the myth that this is a blue day and people are at their most miserable? Why would we continue to set people up for a feeling of dread?
Why would we want to set anyone up to feel more stress, when the start of a new year often feels like a time of change and a drive to do better and be better?
I guess, for some, it’s no wonder that it is perceived it as a melancholy day. It’s three weeks into the New Year, and resolutions will be down the pan. Motivation will be peaking, most probably not in the right direction.
All of this misery, instead of the original intention, I believe sets people up for more of a dive into the downward spiral of stress. I was reading some stress statistics from MentalHealth.org.uk for 2018.
- In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.
- 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported
that theystarted smoking or increased their smoking.
- 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% reported feeling anxious.
- Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling lonely as a result.
Stress triggers and your body
There are many causes of stress. You will, I am sure, as you go about your day feel some level of stress. A certain amount of stress helps us to adapt to our environment, however too much triggers the stress response and this is what is damaging.
Triggers can come at you from anywhere. Think for a moment what might trigger you to become angry, fearful, stressed or to have a gorgeous belly laugh?
I am visual and I ‘tend’ see all kinds of devastation coming at me from different angles, which I capture and change. I call it my creative storytelling mind and I make up what I call creative life stories to move the story along. When I hear bad news, like the time I was told that my spine had fractured, my mind went into temporary insanity. I new that it was a normal reaction, and I could deal with it. I kept saying over and over again I can deal with this, I can do it, I can… But I was in fear and I knew that fear and stress would not help my healing.
I used to teach assertiveness skills, so I knew intellectually that in relation to fear, there were several ways that we typically respond. One is to fight and the other is to run away. This is known as the fight or flight response.
When we sense danger, our bodies release hormones to an area of the brain called the amygdala. Depending on your response to the danger you may experience a number of things.
For example, you may get a racing heart or a bad tummy. What’s important is that you recognise your typical response. This response is due to cortisol and adrenaline (hormones) being released into the body. They, in turn, signal the adrenals, which are a part of the endocrine system (on top of your kidneys) to release the hormones.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, blood pressure and the amount of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Cortisol also releases increased amounts of glucose into the bloodstream, which your brain needs to deal with the perceived threat. Glucose is food for the brain. The brain with an increased supply of food can do its work. When the fear response diminishes everything goes back to normal.
Problems arise when we constantly live in fear. You may have heard people who are newly diagnosed with something saying that they are constantly tired. That’s
At the time when my spine fractured I was in pain, but I was also immensely tired. My body was certainly responding to all of the triggers. Exhausted I let my body rest and focused on staying as positive as I could.
The other thing you may do is panic. What the ‘beep’ am I going to do? Panic is normal, and it’s usually our next response. Think for a moment when as you are driving away from home to go on holiday and you ask, did I turn the iron off? What happens? Yes, fear and then panic. Then you calm down as you go through those final steps of closing up the house and you can see yourself doing what you always do, and the iron is off. Of course, you can ring a friend and ask them to pop in to check so that you feel reassured.
Fear (and other emotions) will attach itself to the memory of the event, and you will code and remember this memory as a time of potential unpleasantness. Then what we often do is future pace our fear, and this becomes anxiety. You start to worry about things that may never happen.
Sometimes this endless worrying does bring about the event, something which is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have through constant mithering have given your body permission to bring you the thing that you fear the most.
How do you know when you are stressed?
Take a look at yourself. Are you stressed? Do you feel stressed? Are you hiding your stress?
Sometimes we are ‘stressed out’, and we are not even aware of our rising stress levels. But not all individuals respond to stressors in the same way. Your genetic make-up, personality and past experience all dictate how you deal with and react to stressors. In other words, susceptibility to stress-related medical problems varies among individuals.
Some people are particularly vulnerable to stressful situations or events, while others may be highly productive under pressure.
To Know Stress is to Manage Stress
If you recognise the major symptoms of stress, you will associate situations in your life with specific stress symptoms, and consequently, learn better-coping strategies for those situations. However, sometimes your body experiences stress while you remain unaware. This chart lists some of the manifestations of stress:
Changes in eating/sleep habits
Less social contact
Shouting at others
Reduced sex drive
Do you notice any of these or any triggers that
Managing stress: a few simple techniques
The key to success is finding a technique that works best for you, so you may want to try several different methods.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. I walk my dogs 3-4 times a day. This works for me because it forces me to get up and out. This time is great for them and I get to breathe fresh air and reflect.
This is something that I have really struggled with. In the summer you will find me on the terrace reading a book in the evenings. Sometimes I take a bath, which I love – just not right now as there is no heating in there. Other things you can do is listen to music, practise meditation, simpley find some quiet reflection time, yoga, aromatherapy or massage.
Allied with your journal you may decide that keeping a specific diary is the way ahead. Becoming aware of stress-inducing occurrences and writing down events that were stressful to you can help you to create and adopt effective coping strategies to manage the causes of stress in your life.
Organisation and Prioritisation: Be Realistic!
Prioritise what you need to accomplish during the day and tick off each item as you finish them. Time management is a key step to keeping tabs on stress levels.
Learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities at home and at work, and learn to say ‘No’. I know that is easier said then done
It is hard to work efficiently when you are tired, and that can be stressful. Take a look at some of the great resources on www.sleepguru.co.uk.
Talk About It
Friends can provide with support and guidance to help reduce stress and enhance well-being.
Some stressors (i.e. domestic violence, unsafe work or home environment) do not have easy solutions. If the above measures are not helping, if the severity of the stressor is extreme, or if you are affected by severe anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor. If you need other support then find a recommended trusted counsellor or coach to support you.
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. I could wax lyrical about diet as this is something I subscribe to. My diet is one of the keys to my health, well being and balance.
Laughter may boost the immune system and lower stress levels
Stop blue M
onday in its tracks with journaling
I’ve left journal and writing to last. I do many things, but this is one of the biggest assets to my life. Recently I started a new journal and a new journaling adventure 101 days of being me (sign up its free). I knew that after last year that I was in for an adventure as I returned to a healthy pace of life. And I wanted to find out more about me in a positive sense.
I was also aware of the third Monday – Blue Monday as a day when I might potentially want to ‘give it all up’ and not maintain the focus on my goals. It wasn’t like I was setting myself up to do this, but there was a feeling that what if I started the year with great gusto and things that I expected to manifest didn’t. In my head I was open to opportunities that I was anticipating, but none the less I could feel flashes of doubt in my tummy.
When I first came to Spain after leaving an unpleasant relationship, I’d thought about the first 100 days of a leaders role and knew that to find my way, I would need to do something to take me forward. I added a day on and called it 101 days of being me. It worked and I navigated that time with the support of my journal.
What I have discovered is that by journaling I get to know me, I can face my fears, change my perspective and navigate life with clarity. Although I cannot see around bends and I do not have a crystal ball, what this tool gives me is a daily place to explore what is going on. With this insight I can deal with life, change unexpected events and potential Blue Mondays.
This is what you can do. Grab a brand new journal and use your this writing and journaling experience to find you, get clarity and use it to store your feelings, action and wisdom.
With the 101 days method you journal for 10 days and after 10 days you start to reflect and then at the end of your first 10 days reflection period you look for
You may even find a book in there. Your story could help save someone else’s life. Think about that. Imagine what it would be like to inspire someone else to embrace change?
Journaling and writing is a journey with your soul; writing can help you to heal and de-stress. Everyone who writes at some level moves on. Your pen has a deep connection with you and if you allow the words to flow you will discover alchemy, your pot of gold.
Start today, get a journal, get lots of journals and put them beside your bed. Journal when you go to bed and when you wake up. You don’t have to write reams, just let it come as it wants to.
You will find that as you focus on the first 101 days of being you, things like Blue Mondays or any days of the week, can be navigated with more ease.
Be inspired and take bold actions
What if instead of feeling down, we looked at blue Monday as a way to review a long desired project, as was the original intent? What if on blue Monday, or even today you started to journal and thought about your long held desires? Choose something that will inspire you, fill your heart and add value to your life and business. For me that will include writing another book.
I find that writing helps to keep me on track, no matter what. When you write, you make an unconscious connection to your inner wisdom. So ok, things may feel like they are off key, but with a bit of writing and reflection, you can get back on track. Blue Monday is a perfect day to review how far you have come and if your plans need tweaking.
Right here, right now, paint the picture of possibilities
In any way you like, paint a picture of the right here, right now – however, you want to interpret that. In the present, today is my perfect day – what’s great about now?
This is important, I want to you stay in the here and now, because time no longer exists, the past is gone, there is no future, there is only now.
How is it possible that you can enjoy everything that is? There are no longer turning points, forks in the road, cliffs to jump off; there is just a picture of possibilities.
What came up for you?
How can you make Monday full of juice?