Any day can be blue if you are suffering from mental health problems

Any day can be blue if suffering mental health problems

Jessica Carmody, Head of KPMG’s Be Mindful Network discusses Blue Monday.

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The festive period has been and gone and many are enduring Dry January in one form or another after the inevitable New Year hangover that comes from spending, eating, dancing and drinking too much over the last few weeks. And if your empty pockets and indigestion weren’t enough to make you want to stay under the duvet, just to really bring you back to earth with a bump after the season of celebration, the highly publicised “Blue Monday” takes place today (16th January).

We’re told Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year, but in reality it’s nothing more than a PR stunt devised by a travel company in order to sell last minute getaways. An effective gimmick to tout holidays perhaps, but it’s an issue that comes with a serious side. For me, the most troubling aspect of the Blue Monday campaign is not the possibility that a single day in the calendar might find more people depressed than any other, because that would simply necessitate increased targeted support of an appropriate kind on that day. It’s what isn’t said. On any day in any given year one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind, ranging from short term stress to a longer term diagnosed condition such as depression, anxiety and so on. Most troubling of all, 17 people a day on average end their lives through suicide. Clearly there is a real need for appropriate support to help people prevent these problems, and deal with them when they do occur, so they have the best chance of maintaining good health every day.

“Blue Monday” risks trivialising the real, ongoing need for all of us to continually care for ourselves and others. It suggests extra attention should be focused on just one day per year and that we only need a ‘quick fix’. That’s a bit like saying “why don’t you just cheer up?” How patronising for the many people struggling with real mental health problems. What is really needed is, enduring consistent self-care which sustains us throughout the year and takes into consideration our fluctuating work, rest and play patterns effectively. Holiday getaways or other treats can offer a boost, something to look forward to. But, if the basics aren’t there, we risk papering over the cracks and in the long term, our overall health may suffer.

Of course, at this time of year people may have over-stretched themselves financially purchasing presents, indulged in rich foods and have taken less exercise. All of this can contribute to feelings of guilt in January, when it will still be dark, damp, and cold, but without the tinsel and fairy lights to lift the gloom. The buzz around Blue Monday may even contribute to feelings of pressure and depression if you are already feeling vulnerable.  

This means we can all benefit from self-care. Here are some tips which we all can benefit from at any time of the year and which should serve as “the basics” in terms of taking better care of yourself: 

  • Avoid telling yourself ‘I should do’ something or ‘I must do’ that. Instead say ‘it would be good if I…’ Giving yourself a hard time will increase the feelings of pressure and disappointment each time you are not able to complete a task. 
  • Strike a balance between eating some healthy foods that will nourish you and some treats. A crash diet may be feasible for a couple of days but difficult to maintain for longer. A more sensible approach would be to have everything in moderation.
  • Exercise is tremendously helpful for mental health. Some may relish the thought of attending a boot camp at 4:30 every morning where the instructor barks at you while you attempt fifty burpees in the mud. However, brisk walks, with friends or alone are also good both for physical and mental health.
  • Finally, never underestimate the power of a good night sleep - going to bed at a reasonable time helps to restore our energy and resilience levels. Put your smart phone down at least thirty minutes before bed time so that your mind can move away from the unnatural glare of technology has a chance to calm itself down.
  • Balancing rest and work is important too, so try to pick up work in the New Year at a steady pace that is acceptable to you.

These tips can be used by everyone; but for those who also have a mental health problem, such as stress, depression, anxiety etc. more day-to-day management may be required. Mindfulness, forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication may also be helpful, and if this applies to you it may be worthwhile discussing with your doctor if reasonable adjustments in your workplace might make it easier to perform your job while managing your mental health. 

We are passionate about inclusion and diversity at KPMG and I’m proud to be a part of our work in this area as chair of our employee mental health network, Be Mindful. One of our network’s principles is that everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health, so taking care of ourselves – whatever the time of year, whatever is going on in our lives – is key.

It remains certain that there will be some days that will be bluer than others – and no doubt some will fall on a Monday. My pledge to my colleagues at KPMG is to support them (myself included) throughout the year, because mental health affects us all and any day can be blue.

For more information please contact: 

Angela Pink, Communications Executive, People and Corporate Responsibility

T: +44 (0) 20 7694 2679

M: +44 (0) 750 010 0257

E: angela.pink@kpmg.co.uk

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