its a bit of a void isn’t it? Or at least it can, the few days between Christmas and New Year and if you have to work in that time, well no wonder Charlie Brooker christened it the Christmas Perenium.
But its also a time when anxiety and feeling low can really kick in: the big day is over, the hype done and dusted and the endless ‘Did you have a good Christmas?’ questions from well meaning strangers and even friends.
Because what do you say? ‘Well, it was ghastly actually, just awful, everyone was fighting and no-one helped me cook and clean and I’m fed up with the lot of them.’ Or if you’ve spent it on your own as I did, there’s only so many times you want to say ‘Quiet, lovely but quiet.’
And of course, now that Christmas is over and the presents have been given and received, the anxiety about what was spent and what that money could have been used for and the looming credit card bills…and with nothing to distract us but more eating, drinking and repeats on the tv.
People have a curious way of focusing on one thing in the immediate future and not thinking about any consequences after that event: so long as Christmas is all right it doesn’t matter about afterwards, lets just have a great Christmas, we’ll worry about real life when it happens.
And now here we are and the worry and dread starts creeping in.
Depression, anxiety and stress research shows that searches on Google for these terms dips in December, suggesting a holiday feel good effect that boosts our mood.
Surprisingly January and February aren’t the most misery-inducing months. Researchers have found that more people go to their doctor for help with anxiety, depression, stress and fatigue in Spring, and there has been a consistent spike in suicide rates in Spring for reasons that still aren’t fully clear.
And yet, there’s no denying that things feel flat in this period betwist and between, and I would say even more so this year because most of us just want to see 2020 over and done.
Which really worries me because I think we’re doing the same for 2021 as we do for Christmas Day, thinking everything will be perfect if we can just get to that day/year.
We’re pining all our hopes on 2021 making things alright in the world again and we’re not thinking realistically about what will happen in the days, weeks and months ahead.
For me, I don’t think 2021 is going to be all that different than 2020 except that hopefully our Government won’t try to scare the life out of us as they did in March with their fear campaign to enforce compliance in the National LockDown. (Senior Government advisors not withstanding)
There are no statistics yet on the impact Covid-19 had on Mental Health but the measurements of previous years don’t make for cheery reading:
The impact of mental ill health
- 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year (1)
- 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide (2)
- At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health (3)
- Mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions (4)
- Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year (5)
Note: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion (6)
- The total cost of mental ill health in England is estimated at £105 billion per year (1)
- People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast (6)
- 75% of mental illness (excluding dementia) starts before age 18 (7,8)
Note: Dementia is more accurately described as a progressive neurological disorder (a condition affecting the brain’s structure and subsequent function over time), and typically does not occur before the age of 30
- Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK (9)
- 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all (7,10,11)
Mental ill health in the workplace
- 1 in 6 workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time (1)
- There were 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19 in Great Britain (2)
- In 2018/19, stress, depression or anxiety were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to health issues in GB (2)
- 1 in 5 people take a day off due to stress. Yet, 90% of these people cited a different reason for their absence (3)
- Presenteeism accounts for 2 times more losses than absences (4)
- Every year it costs business £1,300 per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported (4)
- Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year (4)
Note: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion (5)
- People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast (5)
- 9% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their line manager reported being disciplined, dismissed or demoted (6)
Note: The percentage of people reporting discipline, dismissal or demotion in the Business in the Community report has reduced over the last three years: it was 15% in 2017, 11% in 2018 and 9% in 2019.
- 69% of UK line managers say that supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill, but only 13% have received mental health training. 35% of line managers reported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions (6)
- Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and a major contributor to suicide and coronary heart disease (1–3)
- 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime (4)
- Depression often co-occurs with other mental health issues (5-7)
- Depression occurs in 2.1% of young people aged 5-19 (8)
- In 2017, 0.3% of 5-10 year old children met clinical criteria for depression, as did 2.7% of 11-16 year olds and 4.8% of 17-19 year olds (8)
- Major depression is more common in females than in males (8)
- Up to 90% of children and young people recover from depression within the first year (9)
- There were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK in 2013 (1)
- Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety (2,3)
- 7.2% of 5-19 year olds experience an anxiety condition (4)
- In 2017, 3.9% of 5-10 year old children had an anxiety disorder, as did 7.5% of 11-16 year olds and 13.1% of 17-19 year olds (4)
In 2020, things will have been magnified many, many times, we have no idea how bad its been except by anecdotal and personal experience which tells me its been bad, really bad for most people.
What can you do to help yourself:
- First and foremost, talk to someone. Let someone know how you’re feeling, how bad its gotten for you, what feelings are coming up, the thoughts you’re fixating on, the actions you’ve been prompted to take that don’t serve you well and may actively do you harm.
- Let whomever you’re talking to know you don’t want advice or guidance, simply to be seen and heard. That’s the most important thing someone can do for another person, listen attentively and be supportive and encouraging without trying to fix things.
- Know that emotions rise and fall like waves in the sea and neuroscience has proven that they last only 90 seconds. We can all do something for 90 seconds. Sit in the feeling, whatever it is: sadness, grief, despair, loneliness. Sit with the feeling and acknowledge it, talk to it it say, ‘I see you, I honour you, I feel you.’ and I want you to tell yourself and know, really know that you can feel this and be okay. Feeling your feelings won’t harm you.
- Don’t resist what you’re feeling, its in resistance that they stick to us. When we resist they stick to us but when we allow they flow through us. Replace resistance with acceptance.
- Turn your body into a peaceful place. Encourage yourself to practice mindfulness techniques. I have attached a link to an audio of mine that’s usually only shared in paid for programs, its an ancient Japanese technique for lowering anxiety in the body in 2- minutes. Its amazing. https://soundcloud.com/user-570345648/winter-wondermind-bonus-audio-winter-wondermind-japanese-stress-relief-technique/s-JDaFgk9PUqB
- Practice breathing consciously, by simply counting how long your inhale and exhale last. Don’t try to manipulate or change your breath, just measure it by counting. By putting your attention on your breath, you’ll find it slows down and becomes deeper which is a great way to change your body state. Eventually you can increase the length of your inhale and exhale, 7-11 is the usual numbers used in yoga and meditation and have been scientifically proven to increase calm and reduce cortisol levels.
- Stop eating, drinking and binge watching television. Go out for a walk, even if its only for 5 minutes. Tidy the house, throw out rubbish. Produce don’t consume. Constant, inactive, mindless consumption is stressful on both our bodies and our minds. Go do something useful instead, it will make you feel miles better than being slumped in front of the telly eating the last of the Quality street ever could.
These are all very simple techniques to take you out of the immediate stress induced thought spiral and introduce some calm into your body and mind. Things anyone can do, anywhere. And they work. Put them to the test and find out.
After you reset to a place of calm, its time to introduce that state to your mind more frequently and actually reset your mind/body state to this new setting rather than the hypervigilant, stressed out state is previously regarded as its dominant state of being.
Its not healthy to stay that way, the toxic stew of chemicals induced by stress reduce our capacity to think, to breathe, to live healthfully. Learning to manage your mental and emotional state actually increases your life span. Is that not a good enough reason to start practicing meditation or getting up and going for a walk every day?
If you’re struggling please reach out and I’m here if you want to email or message me for help and advice. Lets all talk care of ourselves because by taking care of ourselves first, we empower ourselves, we experience increased levels of confidence, happiness and life has more meaning.
We all deserve that: a life full of joy and meaning.
And remember, it doesn’t matter where you start so long as you start.
BTW, I’ve completely reworked my Change for Life program and its now Being the Best Me. A 12 week 1:1 highly personalised HypnoTherapyCoaching offer designed to take you from being unhappy, miserable and not sure of who you are anymore to being fully reconnected to the truth of your brilliance, magnificence and humanity.
Interested? Email or message me to find out more. Space are limited as I can only work with so many people at one time. Be one of those who truly makes their life different this year.