Coach and trainer Lorraine Hirst shares her thoughts and expertise in this weeks guest post. Will this be most useful for you or your clients?
Blue Monday – What Colour Will Your’s Be?
According to psychologists (which ones, I’m not sure), the third Monday in January, is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year. This year it is 16th January 2012.
Depressing news, along with a double-dip recession, post-Christmas credit card bills, an over-indulged body, winter colds and, moreover, a definite sense of, ‘the party is over, back to school feeling.’
Despite this, and other things, I’m currently feeling quite buoyant and refreshed. I’m sure this is, in part, to do with the fact that I had a fabulous extended party/social time over New Year, with lots of laughter and great company. You know, the kind of friends that remind you of your younger days when every evening is a social gathering, rude jokes abound and the banter doesn’t stop until 2am.
Of course, it’s not Monday 16th yet! Will the grey clouds and negative thoughts overwhelm me, and all of us, that day? If you and I are feeling OK now, is this just the quiet before the storm?
Perhaps my ‘Blue Monday’ came early? I’ve already experienced the sluggish, detox and slightly low feeling of shifting from this turbo-charged social whirl back to routine, three sensible meals, no alcohol and domestic blisters. I combatted this last weekend by going for long walks in the winter sunshine, whether or not my family wanted to join me. One day, this resulted in my getting lost in the local fields, as light was fading and the sound of unleashed dogs seemed to be getting closer and I was left wondering if my phone had an app for a torch and what assertive behaviour I could adopt if one of those hounds did get close!
I also decided to not worry about the need for a renewed effort and hard work for my new venture, supporting associates to deliver resilience-building programmes with children and in schools. I told myself, I would ease myself gently back into my office chair on Monday, assuming my bottom could still fit in it (it did, fortunately) and would take things steadily from there. Besides, the actual ‘back to school’ project for my son had already begun and we are surviving that fairly well – so far. Again, if we go with the ‘Blue Monday’ theory, perhaps this is just part of the early January honeymoon period?
There are possibly several reasons for my up-beat mood, in addition to the positive effects of laughter, sparkling wine, a great bunch of people to work and train with and a general lack of ‘To Dos’, until this week. One key one for me, has been getting well after a period of Labrynthitis, which is an inner ear condition, causing dizziness and nausea, and, no, it was not as a result of the bubbly! This condition does have you feeling giddy but is definitely not fun. Exercise, driving, reading and other things involving coordination were off the menu but as this lifted before Christmas, even if the Christmas cards and endless wrapping are real chores for me, I was free to enjoy the festivities to the full, and I don’t feel that I’m paying for it now. Apart from getting a new attack of the dizzies whilst running my associate training yesterday, which is wearing off gradually, it’s a case of ‘so far, so good’.
There are loads of websites with tips on how to tackle this January low period. Many are focused on healthy eating, exercise and positive thinking, so what can I offer in addition? For starters my suggestion for warding off the winter or ‘Blue Monday’ blues includes getting some laughter – from friends, from TV, from books, from your kids, from anywhere you can. Laugh loud and long. Laugh until you cry (as long as the crying isn’t too hysterical!). Laughter releases tension, puts us in ‘neutral’ emotionally and lifts us. Even better if you can laugh at yourself. I’m a great believer in this in terms of its helping to promote resilience and well-being.
In terms of food, I go for the Serotonin-rich foods (the ‘happy’ hormone) – pineapple, bananas, chicken, especially turkey (no wonder Jamaicans are so cheerful) and, my favourite, dark chocolate. For the real health fanatics, Flaxseed oil and coconut oil are rich in Omega fats, which are also good. Apparently, proteins contain tryptophan, a large amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain but you need a bit of carbohydrate with it in order for it to be converted to the happy hormone (an argument against the ‘no carbs’ approach, which quite frankly makes me feel really deprived. No wonder!)
Typically, our often failed New Year’s Resolutions compound the Blue Monday phenomenon, so how do you and I beat this headline? Life coach, Fiona Harrold suggests that you ‘focus on the changes you want to bring about from a balanced and optimistic perspective’. For someone who finds ‘balance’ quite a challenge, I’m doing quite well. Apart from the odd lapse, I’m practising this skill, as I can’t help others with achieving balance, if I’m not walking the walk, right? Having the Labrynthitis has been a physical manifestation of my mental lack of balance, quite literally not enabling me to walk the walk, and perhaps the reason it’s there, lurking in the crystals in my ears, is so it can come back and bite me when I’m not maintaining a semblance of balance in my life! In terms of self-coaching, I’m moving away from something I don’t want towards something I do want, that being more of a ‘yes’ feeling, every day. That’s the idea anyway.
Setting lots of goals can be overwhelming and unrealistic. Instead, focusing on what’s important, being grateful for the little things, meditating and giving and receiving love in the form of hugs or massage (or whatever form takes your fancy!) can be beneficial. The reason for the physical stuff is that oxytocin is the feel-good, ‘cuddle hormone’. (I remember having some on the maternity ward but it didn’t have that effect then!) And let’s not forget the power of music or art. New Order did release the song, ‘Blue Monday’ in 1983, which is quite a bouncy tune for this now, less-positive phenomenon, unless you listen to the words of course.
For me, there has to be a focus on my business this year, therefore there are project goals to set, but I’m determined that this aspect of life will be enjoyable, otherwise, why am I doing it? This year, I’m tempering my usual manic enthusiasm with ‘rational optimism’ and setting some goals that will be nourishing, such as getting some singing lessons (if you’ve heard me, you’ll be glad about this) and exploring some mind and body approaches that will further help me stay ‘balanced’ and have a sense of all-round (and hopefully a bit less ‘round’) well-being. I feel good just writing this last sentence. Well, they do say that you only need to think about exercise for it to have a physical effect.
If you need statistics, according to a recent study, 23 Surprising Effective Treatments for Depression (measured over a full year), art therapy, music therapy, mindful mediation and massage were the top four best treatments.
So, whatever your circumstances, may your Monday 16th be full of laughter, abundance, gratitude, friends, hugs, music and, of course, for the girls, a small amount of dark chocolate! Most of all may it be green, purple, orange (I’m told by an artist friend that orange is a calming, happy colour!) or ANY colour other than the one beginning with ‘b’ and ending in ‘e’, and please, please let it not be ‘beige’ either.
About the Author/Further Resources
Lorraine is passionate about resilience as a key component in a child’s mental toolbox and emotional resilience as a prerequisite to being a good learner. Lorraine runs her own resilience-building programmes, known as Way2be programmes, in schools and other settings, including early years and workshops for parents and setting staff, writes and runs a private coaching practice.Emotional resilience and emotional intelligence are elements of a ‘growth mindset’ which is about improving, being an adventurous learner and viewing mistakes as useful learning. Lorraine also works with other creative practitioners to deliver peer mentoring, after-school and holiday clubs, transition projects and targeted programmes for children who are at risk of not meeting their potential or lacking in confidence or self-esteem as an underlying issue. The Way2be programmes help children to understand themselves, their strengths, think in a more flexible and resourceful way, care for others, and thereby become more confident learners and social beings, coping better with the ups and downs of childhood and life.
Lorraine also runs stress management workshops for teachers, inset for school staff on building resilience in pupils and parent workshops. With a Masters Degree in the Policy and Management of Care Services and having worked in Children’s Services and Education for over 15 years with various early intervention projects and strategic work under her belt, Lorraine started forging her own consultancy business a few years ago. In the last two or three years, this developed into the focus on resilience.Lorraine uses NLP, Transactional Analysis, humour and other approaches develop programmes to suit the needs of different groups of children, schools or parents around resilience and self-esteem. Her strategic experience also allows Lorraine to be involved in projects that reduce the external risk factors for children and to support schools and other clients in increasing the external preventative factors for children and young people, such as hobbies, interests, links with the local community, thereby enhancing resilience in terms of the context for that child or young person.