As the excitement of the festive season and Christmas period wanes, the novelty of the chocolates and the gifts wears off and your enthusiasm for new year’s resolutions fades, it’s normal to feel a bit blue and notice your mood lower through January (and the infamous Blue Monday!) – it can be a tough time of year.
Don’t fret: lots of your fellow students will be feeling exactly the same and we’ve written this article to show you how to beat the January blues.
CHRISTMAS IS COMING AND A NEW YEAR IS STARTING
As the commerciality of Christmas and New Year’s Eve builds, and we expend more and more time thinking, preparing, being excited, stressing and celebrating the holidays each year, particularly as you grow older and hold more responsibilities and friendship groups.
This elongated period of mental build-up comes to an end soon after the new year begins and so without another immediate focus to replace it with, it’s completely natural that you may feel a bit down in the dumps due to mental exhaustion and a lack of motivation to pick yourself back up (and if you look on social media everyone else seems to be living their best life).
However, the good news is that there are lots of ways to beat the January Blues though (and get through the most depressing day of the year – Blue Monday), even if your student finances seem to be contributing to them. Not every solution will cost money and those that do need not break the bank. Give these a try…
GET OUTSIDE AND EXPERIENCE THE GREAT OUTDOORS (NOTHING BEATS SOME FRESH AIR)
Your serotonin or ‘happy hormone’ levels are at an all-time low in January, as days are short, the weather is poor and light levels are minimal and hence contributes to the January Blues.
The best way to boost this hormone is to absorb natural sunlight (no, pulling an all-nighter under a desk light will NOT do!). So it’s imperative that you get out every day.
Even if the sky is grey and your mood the same, taking a ten-minute walk will be enough to boost your hormone levels back to a balance that doesn’t feel quite so awful. You can still get exposure to UV light even through the cloud, so don’t let the weather persuade you to stay in. A walk around a park or to a local sight is also a great excuse for a sneaky Instagram pic – so why wouldn’t you? You’ll feel amazing just for stretching your legs, some cold on your face and air in lungs.
Nike has some great options for stylish and comfortable trainers and there is an extra 25% off their winter sale so take a look.
EXERCISE HELPS TO RELEASE ENDORPHINS (THE HAPPY FEELINGS!)
Getting fit and exercising more may well have been a new year’s resolution of yours, but even if you’ve given up on that already, you still need to try to get some form of physical activity into your day to beat the January blues.
There’s no need to go to a gym or brave the cold if you really don’t fancy it, but getting a sweat on will lift your mood and produce endorphins (that’s the happy vibes your body produces naturally). Shut your bedroom door, find a workout video online – and get going! Even celebrity fitness coach Joe Wicks only works out for thirty minutes a day, and he’s in great shape: so why aren’t you? Also, some people don’t like the gym so doing this in the privacy of your own home it’s great for that, plus of course, you get to save money. Winner winner – chicken dinner… or should that be salad dinner? If you do fancy the gym though there is a great Puregym Student Discount.
We’ve got loads of discounts for Sports Direct if you need some activewear or equipment for exercising at home, or on the street or gym – whatever you prefer and whatever makes you feel good, inside and out
LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE
If you find that your mood dips really are down to the shorter days and poor weather, then a SAD light therapy box may be a wise purchase. Sounds swish hey?
Designed for sufferers for seasonal affectiveness disorder, they work by emitting an imitation of sunlight that is absorbed into the melanopsin receptors in your eyes and helps encourage the production of serotonin. This isn’t the same as the light you see from lightbulbs in the home: sunlight is a full-spectrum ‘white light’ that actually emits all colours, and extremely brightly.
Rather than looking directly into the light, which is never recommended for any light product, these specialist therapy boxes diffuse the light into a softer version that’s not harmful to the eyes and can make sure you feel better within just 15 minutes. You don’t need to be formally diagnosed with seasonal affectiveness disorder to buy one of these either; they’re now quite commonly available on the high street.
SLEEP BETTER, LONGER, DEEPER
It’s a subject we harp on about a lot, but sleep really is key to a happy, healthy you in beating the January blues: both physically and mentally. During the winter months where days are short and the weather is dark, it’s normal to feel fatigued and sleepy during the day but of course, we don’t all get the chance to sleep whenever we’d like.
If you do take a nap during normal waking hours, make sure you limit yourself to a ‘power nap’ of thirty minutes or less. This can help reduce fatigue but allowing yourself to sleep for longer could have the opposite effect – and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep when you go to bed for the night.
It’s not a myth that students like to sleep, but many do actually struggle to get quality sleep, so try to encourage this in as many ways as possible.
Check out our student health guide which is also full of tips!
STICK TO A BEDTIME ROUTINE
If you can, try and stick to a bedtime routine through January. Put your phone and devices away at least twenty minutes before you settle in (the light they emit stimulates your brain in a similar way to caffeine) and relax by reading, meditating or taking some light stretches before you crawl in between the sheets.
Set an alarm so you wake up at roughly the same time each morning (we say roughly: the odd slap on the snooze button is permitted!) and try to wake yourself up gently without having to rush around and get dressed/get things done in a hurry right away.
Matalan has some fantastically stylish bedding and the prices are very student-friendly too.
However you decide to do battle with the blues this January, don’t add to your stress by spending frivolously.
PLAN SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
If you plan for something to look forward to then it gives you a boost knowing something new and enjoyable is coming up. It could be a trip to visit a friend for a weekend, visiting relatives or working towards something like a play or event or a day trip or weekend city break or book a holiday. Coaches are cheap with National Express bus routes covering the country or why not even book an Easyjet holiday?
That sense of anticipation really helps to focus your mind on something positive, feel like something good is around the corner and it doesn’t necessarily cost too much either.
And when you’ve done the event, plan for the next one!
STILL GOT THE BLUES? DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
While our tips above can all help, due to the nature of mental health you might need some more help and support to help with your bout of January blues, something many of us have gone through. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, an estimated 1 in 4 of students suffer from some kind of depression.
The Guardian has an excellent article on how to get help, such as university counselling services and your GP.
Plus there is an excellent dedicated service called Student Minds, which has been set up specifically to help students.
To help with your finances, setting Student Discount Squirrel as your homepage will help remind you to check out discount codes for essential purchases, and limiting the amount of cash and cards you carry around can help combat impulse spending for short-term mood fixes. Our blog on making money as a student may also help.
You’ll feel more positive for saving at the point of sale and then again when you can spend the money you have left, for a double mood boost later on!
SUMMARY – BEAT THE BLUES AND AID YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
We hope you have found our guide helpful in how to lift your mental health in what is undoubtedly the most tricky time of year. Basically, learn to be kind to yourself; make sure you eat well, sleep well and exercise. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and always remember that the tough times will past. There’s lots of support out there as well, so never feel ashamed to reach out, there are more people in the same boat as you than you probably imagine. Stay healthy, stay fit and stay positive. And happy new year. Love from the SDS team x
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