In the period post-holidays, many adults find themselves prone to the “January Blues”, a term describing feelings of sadness, loneliness, and lethargy frequently encountered during these months.
According to the WHO, around 20% of people aged over 60 contend with mental health or neurological conditions, translating to more than 200 million worldwide facing mental health issues. Recognising and addressing these issues is crucial for the betterment of older adults’ well-being, particularly around times such as Blue Monday 2024, which falls on the 15th of January. In light of this, Oak Tree Mobility shared a list of tips that can help beat the January Blues.
What can cause January Blues?
- Reduced sunlight: Shorter days and less sunlight can disrupt circadian rhythms and lead to vitamin D deficiency.
- Post-holiday comedown: The contrast between the Christmas season’s activities and the quiet of January can be stark.
- Weather constraints: Cold weather can limit outdoor activities, increasing feelings of isolation and physical health challenges.
- Identifying the signs: Are you experiencing the January Blues?
The January Blues, can still significantly impact your mood and energy levels. Signs you might be experiencing these blues include feeling unusually sad and wanting to hibernate, lacking motivation for even simple tasks, yet still managing to complete major responsibilities like work and household chores. You may also find it difficult to sleep, or conversely, spend more time in bed than usual.
This sluggishness often follows the festive overindulgence of Christmas and the New Year, leading to a sense of being stuck in a rut, especially if the new year starts differently than hoped.
Some of the most common factors that can contribute to mental health issues in older adults include:
- Physical health problems: Chronic physical health problems or disabilities can lead to mental health problems, as they can cause pain, discomfort, and a sense of loss of control.
- Social isolation: Older adults may experience social isolation due to the loss of loved ones, reduced mobility, or other factors. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
- Loss and grief: The loss of loved ones and other life changes, such as retirement or moving to a new location, can be difficult for older adults and can lead to grief and depression.
- Stress: Older adults may experience stress due to financial concerns, caregiving responsibilities, or other challenges.
- Dementia: Dementia is a common mental health problem among older adults, and it can cause a range of cognitive and behavioural symptoms.
Strategies to combat January Blues
Here are our 10 tips to help beat the January Blues:
- Planning and anticipation: Planning events or outings gives everyone something to look forward to, fostering a sense of enthusiasm and purpose for the year ahead.
- Staying socially engaged: Maintaining social connections is vital. This can include family visits, participating in community events, or engaging in social organisations like the University of the Third Age and the WI. Volunteering at local charities, museums, or hospitals can also provide a sense of purpose and maintain confidence.
- Home safety and organisation: Organising the home to prevent falls, such as removing clutter or repositioning rugs, can be both a practical and emotionally satisfying task.
- Physical activity: Daily exercise, even simple activities like walking to the shops, is essential for both mental and physical health. Finding enjoyable physical activities can help maintain a sense of identity and social interaction, like yoga, swimming, or adapted sports.
- Nutritional focus: Rediscovering the pleasure of cooking and eating healthy, nutritious food can be therapeutic, especially for those living alone.
- Engaging with friends and family: Connecting with loved ones, planning regular meet-ups, or just staying in touch can combat feelings of loneliness.
- Mental stimulation: Engaging in activities that stimulate the brain, such as looking at photo albums and recipe books or learning new skills like a language or music, can improve memory and cognitive health.
- Brightening the living space: Opening window coverings to let in natural light and trimming trees or bushes blocking light can improve mood significantly.
- Setting goals: Accomplishing tasks or goals, whether small or significant, can provide a sense of achievement and motivation.
- Spiritual engagement: Connecting with spirituality, whether through organised religion or nature, can have a positive impact on mental health.
Verity Kick at Oak Tree Mobility comments, “As this January unfolds, I encourage you to embrace each day with joyful activities. Start your mornings with something that uplifts your spirit, be it a favourite song or a call to a loved one. Engage in simple exercises like stretching or a leisurely walk to keep active. Take time to organise a space in your home, as it can bring a great sense of order and accomplishment. Remember, every day is an opportunity to learn something new or to revisit a beloved hobby. Most importantly, stay connected and know that you are immensely valued. Each shared moment of laughter and companionship is a step away from the January Blues and a stride towards a happier, more fulfilling month.”