Andrew Embling is an Associate Practitioner with DCC. Andrew is a wellbeing coach and trainer who has lived experience of caring for a close family member with dementia.
Today is Blue Monday, which is deemed to be the saddest day of the year. I undertook some research to understand the origins of the term before commenting or sharing my views, and this is what I found.
Blue Monday is typically the third Monday in January, this year it falls on the 18th. There have been claims that this day is the saddest one of the year and much hype is made about it.
But who says so?
In 2005 the travel industry commissioned psychologist, Cliff Arnall, to help them promote their winter deals and through his work he identified this day to be the saddest day of the year.
As a result, Blue Monday has trickled into popular culture, but instead of promoting winter getaways, today I wish to promote AWARENESS and EMPOWERMENT.
Awareness that regardless of whether it is Blue Monday or any other day of the year, we experience a whole spectrum of emotions in life and this includes sad emotions. Whether it’s Blue Monday or Triumphant Tuesday (yes, I just made that up), my point is that it is valid to be emotional, to perhaps feel down or low, and it is not restricted to any one day. Give yourself the freedom to be you, any day of the week in any given month of the year.
We are emotional beings; does that mean we have to be ‘blue’ each and every time we experience a sad emotion? The problem is not our emotions themselves, but the thoughts that these emotions trigger and what we believe them to mean. Having the awareness that our thoughts and beliefs shape our experience, empowers us and can create an opportunity to do something different.
Our minds can be like washing machines; so busy and full that it can seem impossible to feel in control. Instead, it feels like an endless automated travelator of doing, preparing and just ‘stuff’. When we mix this with held beliefs, remembering past experiences, and trying to predict the future, just imagine the emotions we can, and do generate.
What can help?
What I have found for myself and others I work with is to first be aware that this happens, and use this awareness do something different. To S.T.O.P.
Stop, to pause, to find an anchor to this actual moment of reality and to be out of the spin cycle or to step off the travelator.
A good anchor is becoming aware of the supporting surface holding your body, the floor under your feet, your legs or back on a chair or perch, notice the feeling of the surface on you, and then take two or three deep tummy breaths (expanding your tummy when breathing in, and letting it fall when breathing out). This will activate your relaxation response.
Take a moment now to tune in to your body and just notice any tension, tightness, pain or discomfort in your body. With this awareness, as best you can turn toward the sensations without any judgment or assumption, let go of any unhelpful beliefs you associate to thoughts about now or the future, simply being childlike and curious with no previous knowledge as you notice each sensation.
Opportunity for you to see what is there and change your reaction. If there is pain, tension, or tightness, what would it feel like to breathe into it and let go with each exhale? Practice softening any resistance to the sensations that you held before now.
‘What we resist can persist’.
Notice what you feel and think and change your thoughts with curiosity. Maybe notice what is pleasant in each moment of awareness, something small perhaps, something you simply had not noticed before, and now you can.
Possibility to choose something new. With the awareness, you have now stopped the washing machine/travelator, creating space to make choices, to choose your thoughts, stepping away from auto pilot. Congratulations!
Awareness of our minds, thoughts and sensations empowers us to create choices and options.
Remember, labels such as Blue Monday are only as real as you allow them to be. If we are aware and become the cause of our own experience then we choose the direction in which to travel and accept it can be emotional, but it is normal. The view painted by the emotions we experience has a pallet of colours from which we can choose, once we S.T.O.P.
Our team of health and care professionals are still working hard to support family members and friends caring for someone with dementia, regardless of public health restrictions. To access advice and support please visit our Virtual Carers Centre or book a free place on one of our upcoming Live Online Learning sessions.