The most depressing day of the year

As someone who has lived with depression for more than half of my life, creating and spreading awareness about good mental health is one of the things I feel very passionate about.

Dr Cliff Arnall, a psychologist from the UK, has developed a complex algorithm. It takes various factors into account, such as financial debt, failed New Year’s resolutions and low motivational levels into account. Using this, Dr Arnall determined that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day on the calendar. 

But is it really?

While sceptics have questioned its validity, it’s no surprise that the month of January plays host to the most depressing day of the year.

In December employees are often paid up to two weeks earlier than other months, in part to allow for Christmas purchases – gifts and family lunches, but also because a lot of companies close over the holiday period, which means no admin, including salary payments.

Aside from having to deal with credit card debt, experts say that once the fun and festivities of the holidays are over and the lights and decorations are taken down, our mood comes down too.

Same crap, different day

Mental Health Portfolio Manager for Pharma Dynamics, Shouqat Mugjenker, says the holidays tend to give us a temporary high, with laughter, lights and music everywhere we go, but once the buzz wears off we are faced with the realities (and monotony) of life again.

“By Monday (21 January 2019), you’re not only feeling cash-strapped, but you may have had to come to terms with failed New Year’s resolutions, such as a diet or detox that went pear-shaped, joining the gym without having stepped foot in it since signing up (and probably never will), attempting to quit smoking, while beating yourself up over all the money you wasted over Christmas.

“Although feeling low in January is common, depression rates in our country are already worryingly high, at one-in-three. This makes it especially important for people to develop proper coping skills to help them get through the additional pressures that the start of the year typically brings.”

How to deal with depression

There are many factors that contribute to the onset of depression, including substance abuse, hormonal changes, genetic characteristics, certain medications, illness, grief and stress. Early detection and learning how to deal with depression are key.

Try these points to take better care of yourself:

  1. Identify why you’re feeling so low by completing the ‘Wheel of Life’ – an exercise often used by life coaches to help people pinpoint their unhappiness. Draw a wheel with eight spokes with each representing the following areas of your life: health, money, social life, relationship with significant other, work/career, friends/family, home environment, personal and spiritual growth. Give yourself a score out of 10 and hone in on the areas that you attributed a low score to. If your job is making you unhappy, maybe it’s time for a change?
  2. Set yourself realistic expectations – even if it means scrapping your original list of New Year’s resolutions.
  3. Don’t procrastinate! The more you put things off, the more miserable you’ll feel.
  4. Identify activities that reduce stress in your life and make more room for them this year, such reading a good book, listening to music, spending time outdoors etc.
  5. Try and incorporate regular exercise as physical activity can release endorphins which reduces stress levels and make you feel happy. (This is the one I battle with most.)
  6. Weeks of overindulgence can also leave you tired, so be sure to follow a nutritionally balanced diet to help boost your mood.
  7. To deal with financial debt, make sure you make decisions that won’t worsen the situation. If you’re in a real pickle, consult a debt counsellor for advice. (Take it from someone who’s been there. Ask for help, take the advice, make the change.)
  8. Stay positive by expressing gratitude for what you have and acknowledging the good things in your life. Being grateful is key to contentment.
  9. Don’t put a time-limit on happiness. We often hear people say they’ll be happy when it’s holidays again or when they have more money but doing so means wishing away valuable time. Rather embrace January and each month thereafter by filling your hours with things that add value to your life.
  10. Plan fun, yet affordable activities throughout the year so there’s something to look forward to all-year-round.

Help is out there (and on here)

If feelings of sadness and emptiness continue to overwhelm you, a friend or a loved one, coupled with changes in mood, appetite, weight, lower than normal energy levels, unexplained aches and pains or thoughts of self-harm, you may be at risk of depression. Find help in a way that works for you.

If you like, you could start with a call to SADAG – especially if you don’t belong to medical aid, or only have a hospital plan. Speak to someone you trust (or a stranger, like me) – don’t think you have to do this on your own.

This article is based on a press release I received this morning. It’s not something I do often – especially at no cost – but this is a cause I feel very strongly about. For that reason I will also encourage you to contact Pharma Dynamics for expert advice on how to identify and cope with mental illness, through or their toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 08:00 to 20:00, seven days a week.


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