GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's been called the post-holiday slump, winter blues, or cabin fever. Now, "Blue Monday" is the newest day of commemoration to add to our list. The third Monday in January is often dubbed the most depressed day of the year.
The roots of this "holiday" can be traced back to an ad campaign for a former travel company, hoping to entice people to travel during January. However, it still addresses a major issue for many people, especially in West Michigan. Long winter months and lack of sunshine can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.
"We think, that can't affect me, right" said Elizza LeJeune, a clinical social worker at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. "But at any point, we can feel anxious or sad. The weather doesn't help, especially in Michigan. When it's cold and icy, and you're stuck inside. You might think, 'what is life about?' and 'why am I here?'"
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LeJeune suggests flipping the narrative around Blue Monday. Instead of dreading the date every year, plan to do something you love.
"Any way to increase serotonin is great," said LeJeune, "Try eating chocolate, going for a short walk, going out dancing, or dancing inside. Host a game party with your friends. Anything you enjoy to get out of the funk."
Another factor for the saddest day of the year is financial stress. Many people have racked up credit card debt from the holiday season, and now is the time to pay that off.
"They don't mean to get into trouble, but they get into trouble," said Kelly Gilbert, Financial Adviser and owner of EFG Financial, "And come Blue Monday, the bills are due."
Gilbert's advice to avoid extra stress in January, is to set a spending plan long before the holidays. Then there won't be any reason to worry when it's time to pay bills. He says setting aside 10 or 15 dollars a pay period or month, can make a big difference.
"Set something up the previous year," said Gilbert, "Say the last Blue Monday, and if you're living that plan, here we come to Black Friday in November, and you know exactly how much you saved. You listed all the gifts you're about to give, you can have a great time giving, without the overspending."
According to Gilbert, the average American family has around $300,000 of debt. This year, that saw around an 8 percent uptick. That's about $2,500 per family. Gilbert says that's most likely due to holiday overspending.
However, there is a difference between having a sad day and depression. LeJeune says take notice of how you are feeling. Look for symptoms of a lack of motivation, tiredness and fatigue, and feeling like you just don't enjoy life. Seek professional help if you feel any of these, especially if you have suicidal thoughts.
"I think people need to realize they are not alone," said LeJeune, "This is something more than two million people suffer with, especially in north america. And it's treatable, this isn't the end all, be all. When you're stuck in the storm, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is a light."
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