Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is often considered the most depressing day of the year. And this week marked just this day. The reason why it has such a bad reputation is easy to understand. January is the time when many of us are dealing with subzero temperatures, post-Christmas credit card bills, and the realization that we might already be breaking our New Year's resolutions. Sounds legit, right?
Well, it actually is not. Studies show that the notion of Blue Monday is just as real as Santa Claus. Simply put, Blue Monday is a PR stunt. It was created for influencers to share tips, organizations to show some interest in mental health issues, and tourism companies to advertise their "remedies."
However, the whole idea of the most depressing day didn't appear out of bloom. As a matter of fact, it has a solid fundament. And that fundament is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you haven't heard of this notion before, then you should know that SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year. And it usually occurs in the winter months. It is characterized by low mood, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
So yes, as a leader, you should not take the idea of Blue Monday for granted, but you should not say bygones the moment that precise work day ends. More than that, this is exactly the time of year when organizations should start asking their employees periodically about their well-being. This is exactly the time of year when they need to stay alert for any signs and symptoms. And this is when leaders should start having one-on-ones more often. The time when leaders should show support to anyone who may be struggling with this condition.
Because, with around 5% of the population affected by SAD, the chances of realizing that some of your team members suffer from depression during winter months are actually pretty high.
Now, the good news is that you can help your team from your leadership position. Naturally, people suffering from any type of depression require some kind of therapy. Yet, when it comes to SAD, there are a thing or two you can do to assist the people in need.
Here are a few tricks that are known to help in these situations.
One way to support SAD employees is to provide light therapy access. Install full-spectrum lighting in the office or give the employees light boxes to use at their desks. Light therapy has been shown to be effective in treating SAD by regulating the levels of chemicals in the brain that play a role in mood and sleep.
Another way to support employees with SAD is to encourage them to take breaks throughout the day to get outside and get some natural light. This can be done by offering them flexible break times or by offering outdoor activities during lunch or other breaks.
Flexible working arrangements such as working from home or remote working can also be a great way to help employees cope with SAD. This allows your team members to control the amount of light they are exposed to and to create a more comfortable and relaxing work environment.
Offering Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can also be a valuable resource for employees with SAD. This can include counseling services, support groups, and other resources to help them manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.
Unfortunately, SAD is simply one of the many mental health problems people face nowadays. And these issues are not limited only to this time of year. So as a leader, why not consider the SAD period as a new beginning? A new beginning in which you start promoting good mental health within your organization.
Simply put, consider this January a fresh start in which you make sure that your employees are happy. Look at it as the moment to start encouraging them to take care of their general health and find their work-life balance.
In other words, think of it as the point when you started to regularly ask your teams about their well-being, turning their concerns into solutions. Consider January 2023 the year that marked your team's journey to a healthy approach.
And this journey can only begin with this simple question: "How are you feeling today?"
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