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January can be a hard month
Many people suffer from the “January Blues,” or a sense of low mood, low energy, low motivation, and overall sadness during the first month of the year. While these symptoms are also often signs of depression, some people simply experience a lower mood during the wintertime, but not to a degree that requires a depression diagnosis. You’re not alone if you’re dealing with the January blues this year.
How are the January blues different from Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It can be confusing to figure out if you’re dealing with the January blues or if it’s something more serious, like Seasonal Affective Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. The biggest difference is in the intensity and timeframe of the symptoms.
While it’s no fun to have a period where you feel less happy or have lower energy, the January blues are less intense and don’t last as long as Seasonal Affective Disorder or a depressive episode. There may be some winters where you start to feel the blues, but with seasonal depression, symptoms return on a regular cycle. Seasonal depression lasts for a longer period than the winter blues, which go away after a few weeks.
Tips for beating the January blues this year
Even though the January blues aren’t as severe as depression, that doesn’t mean it’s fun to experience. Here are some tips for beating the January blues this year:
Get sunlight when possible
One reason that researchers think that people get the blues in January is because there’s less sunlight. Not only is it bleak to face winter weather, but sunlight supports health and wellness by providing Vitamin D, which is essential. There may be less sunlight to take advantage of, but if you’re able to get outside and get some sunlight daily, it can go a long way toward making you feel better.
If you’re not able to get outside, that’s okay! There are light therapy lamps available that can help replicate the effects of sunlight, which are very effective. See how it feels to start using one regularly.
Take care of your basic needs
It’s always important to take care of yourself, but it’s especially supportive when you’re not feeling your best. It’s okay to take it back to the basics when you’re having a hard time. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, enough to eat, hydrating, and talking to people who care about you.
Even if you don’t feel up to your normal activities, they’ll be around for you when you’re feeling better. Focus on the simple things until you feel more like yourself again.
It’s okay to distract yourself when you’re not feeling well. It’s especially helpful when you are dealing with anxiety or racing thoughts, which can come up during the winter blues for some people. Distracting yourself can break the cycle of ruminating and help you focus on something else.
Try to do whatever will be distracting for you. Maybe read a book or engage in a hobby. You can also watch something engrossing on TV or listen to a new podcast. Others might prefer to exercise or engage in self-care activities as a way to distract from the blues they’re feeling.
Try something new
January is a long month, and it can be a difficult period of transition after the holiday season back into everyday life. One way to spice things up in the winter months is to try something new. See if there’s a class you can take, either in person or online, or if there’s a local group meeting on a topic you’re interested in. You could also ask a friend or a family member to teach you a skill of theirs (and maybe you can teach them something in return). Getting absorbed in learning something new can help the time pass in the winter.
Take a break from screens
There are lots of new challenges that go around every January – Dry January, No-Spend January, etc. – so why not give yourself a challenge to spend less time looking at screens this month? We often spend much more time on our devices than we think, and taking time to focus on other things can help you feel less overwhelmed. It’s hard not to compare yourself to everyone else online, and it can be upsetting to navigate that when you’re already feeling down.
You don’t have to give up screens completely – that’s not realistic for most of us. Try reducing your screen time by a half hour or so, and then work from there until you find a balance that works for you. Try adjusting your screen time settings on your phone to close down certain apps at a specific time of day and see if that helps.
Are you dealing with the January blues this year? Our Houston therapists can help, and we have appointments available. Contact us today to get started!