By Eren Ozagir, founder and CEO of Push Doctor, Europe's largest digital doctor service.
With all the will in the world, January has the potential to bring even the happiest of people down thanks to a lack of sleep, miserable weather and scares finances contributing to dampened moods and even depression.
So much so, that we have seen a spike in mental health conditions linked to depression over January.
But while some doubts have always been cast about the legitimacy of labelling 'January Blues', new figures from Push Doctor's Live Healthcare Trends data have revealed it sees a genuine spike in appointments for mental health services at this time of the year.
Mental health issues consistently rank in the top 10 topics for doctor's appointments, according to consultation data, with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), financial worries and returning to work thought to be increasing stress levels.
Sleep related problems, another major factor in mental health issues, also ranks in the top 20 most commonly conditions for patients.
Seasonal affective disorder is a common form of depression related to shortening day length and a decrease in natural light, which usually occurs during the winter months.
Other conditions which are usually exacerbated at this time of year, like anxiety, are also likely to trigger mental health issues in the early part of the year as people return from the holiday break.
And while medical help should be a first port of call for dealing with any serious mental health issues, there are some things that can be done to help fight the January blues that accompany the winter months:
• Get outdoors - It's tempting to stay indoors amidst the miserable weather but one of the biggest causes of the January blues is the lack of natural light. Natural sunlight produces serotonin, a naturally occurring mood stabilizer which helps regulate your happy hormones.
• Exercise - Getting active will help alleviate the day's stresses and help boost your mood by giving you more by releasing endorphins. Falling into a sedentary lifestyle is a sure way to lose motivation and should be avoided at all costs. It doesn't have to be anything too strenuous, just going for a short walk could be enough.
• Eat more healthily - Christmas is always a time of overindulgence and all that food can leave you feeling lethargic and low on energy. We're not talking about extreme "fad" dieting - which rarely works - but a committed change in your everyday diet to include more fruit, veg and healthier options will help with mood and energy, and can also help you avoid a plethora of winter illnesses.
• Cut down on the booze -As alcohol is a depressant, a sudden and excessive increase in alcohol intake can have a detrimental impact on your mind's health and cutting down is something to consider.
• Book something to look forward to - Holiday funds may be low post Christmas, but booking something doesn't have to be expensive. Just planning a day out a few weeks in advance will instantly put something positive in your life, giving you something to look forward to.
• Spend time with friends and family - You've probably seen a lot of them over the Christmas and New Year period, but continuing to surround yourself with loved ones will remind you you're not alone in dealing with issues. Family and friends also always serve as a supportive sounding board for issues that are causing you stress and concern.
If you are struggling with mental stress or illness or know someone who is, speak to your GP straight away. Anything you discuss with your GP is confidential and they can offer one-to-one care to help you manage the problem, by providing advice and treatment, refer you to a councillor or by simply just listening. Mental illness effects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK so you won't be alone. Whatever the problem, big or small, GPs are there to help.
For those who are struggling to get appointments at their local surgery, or prefer to have a consultation in the comfort of their own home, Push Doctor provides video consultation 365 days a year, from 7am-10pm on any mobile device or tablet, making life easier for those seeking professional medical advice outside of working hours.
More information about Push Doctor and the services we provide can be found here.
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