The most important thing you can do for yourself this January is supplementing your body and mind’s processes by staying in tune with your body and what it is abundant in and lacking. This could be from hormones to environmental factors.
This article will display all possible causes of January blues and discuss the biological and psychological symptoms and tips to ease them.
Why do we get the January blues?
First, there is a great contrast between the celebrations and the happiness during the festive period compared with the duller days and serious back-to-work vibes. This really makes the start of the new year quite a challenge.
January presents the darker dull days you would expect from winter. Still, without the festivities and after the excessive spending of money and time with family and friends, it can leave you depleted of money and energy.
Additionally, the holidays will have had you surrounded by many, and January may not have been as kind to your social life. This dramatic contrast from being surrounded to being alone could leave you feeling extremely isolated.
The ‘new year, new you’ trend comes around every year and places great importance on January as the ‘start as you mean to go on’ month sets the tone for the year. The guilt and shame trap of ‘bettering yourself’ many fall into, and it can be difficult to feel happy.
Finally, and most notably, the duller cold weather accompanied by longer dark nights will mess up your biological clock, disturb your sleep, and affect your hormones and mood. This could have a knock-on effect on changes in appetite and energy.
Biological symptoms and relief tips
Many physical symptoms can arise from the January blues; it is important to be aware of them to supplement what you lack. This action is essential to prevent the snowballing of your physical and mental health.
Stop the January blues in its tracks. To be able to beat the blues, first, you must be aware of why and how you are affected. Within the biological umbrella of symptoms are sleep, mood, diet and physical health.
Sleep and hormones
First, let us discuss sleep and the sleep hormone melatonin and how the January blues may affect them. We know that sleep is vital in supporting healthy brain function, growth and development, as well as maintaining good physical and mental health. Additionally, inadequate sleep can present you with symptoms such as brain fog and low mood.
So how does the January blues affect your sleep? It all comes back to regulating the sleep hormone and the circadian rhythm. Melatonin production is increased as it gets darker, and it is the melatonin that makes us tired enough to go to sleep.
However, in winter, with long dark periods, melatonin is produced earlier and for longer. This means you will feel sleepier than usual, even with adequate sleep.
With this messed-up cycle, you may find yourself sleeping in, finding it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
How to optimise your sleep this January by:
- have a sleep schedule
- keep room dark at night
- avoid electronic devices at night
- have a relaxing evening routine
- avoid caffeine
- try light therapy
Mood and hormones
Next, let us discuss the mood and mood-regulating hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins).
Most notably, serotonin, released when satisfied, can affect mood, sleep and appetite. This hormone is released at lower levels due to a lack of sunlight, and this can result in symptoms of depression.
To increase naturally, try:
- cold shower
- go outside
Many other hormones can affect your mood. Dopamine, the reward hormone, could be depleted and make you feel like you are not productive or successful enough.
To increase naturally, try:
- create and complete to-do lists
- get creative
Lacking oxytocin (the love hormone) and endorphins (the pleasure hormone) could leave you feeling isolated and depressed.
To increase naturally, try:
- physical touch (hugs, massage)
- listen to music
Moreover, the overproduction of cortisol (stress hormone) could leave you stressed about your situation.
To decrease naturally, try:
- getting adequate sleep
- spend time doing hobbies
- breathing exercises
For more information on mood-regulating hormones, read here and more on the stress hormone cortisol here.
Diet and vitamins
Moreover, diet and vitamin intake can affect your physical and mental health. The low levels of Vitamin D (from the obvious lack of sunlight) and low B vitamin levels in the diet can cause mood issues.
Vitamin D foods
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Orange juice
- Spinach and kale
B vitamins foods
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens
- Chickpeas and kidney beans
Foods that can boost mood:
- Fatty fish
- Lean protein (turkey and chicken)
- Dark chocolate
- Oats and berries
- Nuts and seeds
Also, eating consistently and having a balanced diet is equally important in maintaining physical (and mental) health. If you are interested, you can read this piece on cortisol and food.
January may leave you feeling down and wanting to stay home and sleep. However, this is the last thing you want to do, as it will leave you resenting yourself for sleeping in and feeling worse physically from the lack of exercise.
You will feel more tired but do not let this stop you from doing light exercises such as:
- walking (try this)
- house workouts
Psychological symptoms and relief tips
Now, the mental side should improve after working on the physical side. However, to supplement your emotional regulation and mindset, it can be beneficial to actively help yourself.
Do not punish yourself for not being able to sleep when you want to. Sleep anxiety will only worsen the situation. Be kind to yourself – you can only do what you can.
- drink herbal teas
- manage worries
- create a restful environment
- do not nap through the day
- stick to a sleep schedule and routine
January can be an isolating time. People don’t have the money or perhaps the energy to be social. But to prevent feeling the January blues so hard, you must reach out.
Things you can do to reach out:
- social media
- go out
The dullness in the days can leave you feeling just as dull and dark as the day becomes. A physical representation of pathetic fallacy. Do not let the days determine your mood. Work through it by identifying your emotions and triggers. Do more of what you love. Practice gratitude and mindfulness to remember what is most important to you.
Feature Image Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
Final year Biology & Psychology student with a keen interest in music, food and lifestyle pieces.
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