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Monday 18 January 2016

Beating the January Blues - Tips for Veterans

Posted by: Help For Heroes | Categories: General

Did you know that there are biological reasons that can make us feel low during the dark winter months? Rest assured, this can be a normal reaction and you’re not alone.

Help for Heroes Psychological Wellbeing Advisor Kathryn Spence offers her tips for beating the January Blues 

The weeks after Christmas can be a hard time for a number of reasons. This can include feeling an anti-climax after the festive season, whether or not it was a happy occasion. Finances could have taken a serious squeeze and our waistlines expanded more than we would like. These can potentially make us feel stressed, anxious and unsatisfied with ourselves.

New Year can be difficult too as it is a time to reflect on the previous year, and a point where many people look to possibilities and hopes for the next year. This can be tough if your year hasn’t turned out how you wanted and it can be hard to face the idea of another year feeling frustrated. Family tension or loss can also make Christmas and New Year a particularly difficult time.

If you want to start your 2016 with a more proactive and hopeful mindset, then try out one or more of these tips:

Feel the Benefits of Exercise - Taking a brisk walk will lift your mood, give you quiet time to take stock of your goals and also make sure you feel the effects daylight. Our body soaks up Vitamin D from sunlight, which is a known to be a positive mood booster. Exercise can help prevent the symptoms of depression and causes the release of endorphins in our body, which are natural happiness chemicals.

Mood Food - If you can’t get out in the daylight because of work or other commitments, making sure you eat well can mean you don’t miss out on Vitamin D. By including fortified breakfast cereals (ones that contain important vitamins and minerals), dairy products, eggs and fish, such as salmon, in your diet, you won’t miss out. Omega 3 also helps to lift our moods, so get enough of this fatty acid by including oily fish, walnuts and vegetables, like spinach and kale, into your diet.

Avoid Reckless Goal Setting - People can feel low if they don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Setting yourself up to fail comes from having ambitions that aren’t realistic from the start. For example: promising never to drink alcohol, eat chocolate or swear ever again, or wanting to lose 20 pounds in a day. If you want to make a positive change, start small, make it achievable, get support and celebrate the milestones. Rather than trying to give something up, why not decide to try something new instead? Perhaps a leisure activity, a course, a type of exercise, seeing friends more, starting a new lifestyle routine, or trying a method of self-care that boosts your mood.

What Needs Improvement? - It can help to identify head on what triggers your low mood, rather than avoiding it with unhelpful coping methods. This approach can also reveal what is going well in your life. Consider how happy you are with your wellbeing and physical health, the amount of fun you’re having in your life, your work situation, finances, personal relationships, where you live and your interests. Make time for the things that make you happy.

Tell, Talk, Share - Lots of people, including your family, friends, colleagues or neighbours, are also likely to be experiencing some symptoms of low mood at this time of year. Talking to someone you trust may help. Having more social contact during this time can promote your wellbeing and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you feel you need further support, make an appointment with your GP to gain expert advice or treatment. Hidden Wounds is a service that can also help. It offers a range of treatments to support people experiencing low mood and struggling to motivate themselves, anxiety, anger, stress and alcohol problems. Sessions are available over the telephone, via Skype or face to face.

Hidden Wounds are a team of experienced and professional staff. They offer a confidential and free service to Veterans, family members of the Armed Forces and Reservists. You can get in touch on 0808 2020 144 or send them a message here.

Music and Laughter - Music can be a natural mood booster, just like the positive chemical effect that laughter can have on our brains. Make time for both of these in your day. One of the most relaxing pieces of music is ‘Weightless’ by Marconi Union. The therapeutic sounds of classical and meditative music can slow your heart rate and reduce blood pressure.

Lighter mornings, days and evenings are not far away.  January averages more hours of sunshine, longer days and less rainfall than December. 

Be good to yourself, invest in your wellbeing and reach out to others if you need to.