BLUE Monday is said to be the bleakest and most depressing day of the year – the hardest one to get through.
Admittedly, there is some debate over whether the third Monday of January is scientifically proven to be worse than any other.
The Samaritans call it a “myth”.
After all, everyone has good days and bad days, regardless of the calendar.
Looking after our mental health and reaching out to loved ones who might be struggling should not start and end with a single day in gloomy midwinter.
So having strategies for all the Mondays – and those moments when you just need motivation, a boost or a bit of calm – can only be a good thing.
We asked the great and the good from the worlds of sport, television, Instagram and medicine how they take care of their mental health.
Here they share their top tips for coping.
FOR Wag Tanya Bardsley, coping is “all about the simple things that everyone knows to do but never does.”
The Real Housewives Of Cheshire star, 40, tells Fab Daily: “I have to do meditation every day and try to avoid alcohol and caffeine as that can really kick off my anxiety.
“Exercising every day is also a must, even if it’s just a walk. And in my diet, I eat lots of leafy greens.”
Walking a winner
FORMER Towie star Lucy Mecklenburgh, who is expecting her second child, says her methods for boosting mental health have evolved as she gets older.
She adds: “The big one for me is going for a walk.
“It sounds so simple but I discovered the power of walking during my first pregnancy and now it is my go-to.
“It not only forces you to remove yourself from situations by getting outside, it also helps to clear your mind and get some vitamin D from direct sunlight.
“On top of all that, it’s exercise, so you get all those health benefits, too.”
Find the joy
BOXER Tyson Fury is a tireless mental health campaigner and uses the gym and training to bring balance to his life.
When asked what keeps his mind healthy, the two-time world heavyweight champ tells Fab Daily: “Not money or a million title defences. I am motivated to get up in the morning, do a little bit of training and enjoy my day.
“I don’t have any goals in boxing – I have done everything and won everything, the only one to do it in my era.
“It doesn’t matter how many belts you have, who you beat, what your record is.
“You are just another bare bum in the shower and I have always had that opinion.
“You really have to enjoy it while it is here, because when it is gone, it is gone.”
RHIANNON Lambert, nutritionist and author of The Science Of Nutrition, tries to eat to “help support my gut health”, after science has shown that a good digestive system links to people’s mood.
Rhiannon says: “The foods that I always include in my diet are high-fibre ones such as wholegrains, oats, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
“Bananas also contain the so-called happy hormone serotonin, as does chocolate.
“There is no harm to be done by enjoying everything in moderation. I also enjoy chocolate – generally dark – as part of a balanced diet.
“Sometimes chocolate is the only thing that can really pick you up and we actually know from research that it has properties that can do this.
“It contains a number of compounds that are associated with mood-lifting chemicals in the brain.”
- Find out more at @rhitrition.
OLYMPIC ace Sharron Davies says: “Walking the dogs in the fresh air, ideally by the sea, always makes me feel better”.
She adds: “Moving away for a while from technology is also terribly important in a world where we connect less with nature every day.”
The 59-year-old swimming champ, who has her own fitness training site, sharrondavies.com, says her top coping mechanism when feeling low is doing a workout: “It’s the gym every time for me. It produces endorphins – the body’s happy hormones.
“For me, a lack of physical activity definitely results in me being more lethargic and feeling less confident.”
BOXER Conor Benn faced spiteful critics and doubters when he started as a professional in the ring, as online trolls hounded him with the suggestion he was living off of the achievements of his former world champ dad Nigel.
The welterweight slugger knows how to handle toxic social media but also when to switch it off to stay happy.
He says: “Social media is a killer. It does have benefits but I now feel the bad outweighs the good, especially for mental health, and even more so among young people.
“I really didn’t realise that young people could even have problems like depression and anxiety but I feel now that social media is really contributing to that.
“I have read stories about very young kids – school children – harming themselves or worse because of the pressures and influences of social media.
“Social media has allowed people to walk right into your front room and smack you in the mouth completely anonymously, without you being able to do anything back.”
DR Zoe Williams, Fab Daily GP and an NHS doctor, says that paying more attention to things in the bedroom is an often-overlooked tip to improve mental health.
Zoe tells Fab Daily: “Sex – including just by yourself – is an amazing thing for your mental wellbeing.
“Sex and orgasms release a cocktail of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
“Pain-relieving endorphins, feel-good serotonin, the love hormone oxytocin – and the pleasure hormone dopamine too.”
Find your people
LOVE Island 2021 contestant Priya Gopaldas is a big fan of exercising, but she thinks it’s best done with pals.
She says: “Physical activity releases hormones in our body that make us feel better about ourselves, which also helps to boost our self-esteem.
“It also helps us sleep better, and a good sleep is key to improving our mood.
“I would recommend trying group fitness activities because the people you meet while exercising can really motivate you and help you form a support network.”
Priya adds: “Some of the people I have met through my group fitness classes have become some of my closest friends, and when I’ve had a bad day I look forward to going to the gym to see them and work out together.”
- Follow Priya at @priyagopaldas.
TELLY doctor Emeka Okorocha reckons mental resilience is “built over time, almost like a physical muscle”.
He says: “I believe that the things we listen to and the things we read are very powerful for informing our mental perception of the world and of ourselves.
“Our mindset towards different situations is incredibly important.
“Life is always going to throw you curveballs and it’s fair to say that sometimes you do have to expect the unexpected.
“But we cannot let our lives be determined by what happens to us. Instead, they can be determined by how we react to what happens to us.
“This sense of control over our mood and our mental outcome will in time build our mental resilience.”
MARRIED At First Sight TV star and wellbeing coach Megan Wolfe uses a range of tools to stay on top of things.
She says: “If I’m having a particularly bad day it’s important for me to stay off my phone, get some sleep and take a big walk in the fresh air.
“I will also tend to write down my thoughts to help decipher between feelings and facts.
“If you’re feeling low, the most important thing is to validate your feelings and be gentle with yourself.
“Take a mental zoom out and try to gain some perspective.
“Always tell someone how you are feeling and, if all else fails and nothing seems to be working, ask yourself how you would help a best friend in your position and what advice you would give them – then try applying that to yourself.”
- Follow Megan at @meganwolfeinsta.
Go with your gut
TV presenter Trisha Goddard says: “The reason I factor in some kind of movement every day is for my mind.
“Sure, my body reaps the benefits. But if I don’t run or walk or hike outside every day, whatever the weather, or ice-skate and weight train, I definitely see my moods affected.
“Also, as I learned from presenting You Are What You Eat with Dr Amir Khan, what I eat and how I look after my gut health has a direct impact on my mental health.
“My top coping tip for when you are feeling a bit low is: Without overthinking it, put on your sneakers, get outside and walk briskly while listening to your favourite music.
“It will be tough for the first ten minutes but it gets easier and easier.
“Then, suddenly, you hit that mood-lifting high.”
Take a breath
PERSONAL trainer Alice Liveing says one of the things she leans on to help her mental resilience is breathwork and meditation.
She says: “The way we breathe is connected to our mood and ability to feel happy or sad, calm or anxious.
“Fast breathing can place us in a stressed state but slowing it down and elongating it, or doing a square breathing practice for a couple of minutes in the morning, can induce some calm.
“Try breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds and then breathing out for four seconds.”
Alice adds: “Also, try asking yourself in the morning how you are feeling, what do you need and how can you make the most of your day.
“It’s a nice way to connect with yourself. I tend to do this in the morning when I’ve made a coffee – it only takes a couple of minutes.
“As well as breathing, I make sure I engage in social interaction, above and beyond my day-to-day interactions.
“The pandemic has made many of us feel so isolated; I will reach out to a friend even if it’s just for a five-minute phone call or a coffee.”
- FInd out more at @aliceliveing.
FORMER world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua was left distraught after losing his boxing titles to Oleksandr Usyk in September.
But the Brit fighter, who also once lost his crown to Andy Ruiz in 2019, has rebuilt his confidence with ruthless focus.
He says: “When I lost the first time, I never made any excuses. I had my reasons but I took my loss. I knew I would get it back, so I brushed it under the carpet.
“But this last one hurt. I was 100 per cent, I had no problems, everything was cool.
“I just went in there and lost to the better man on the night.
“But it gave me the motivation to pull me out of the position where it had mentally killed me.
“I have fought my way back and I will redeem myself.”
Stretch it out
THE Body Coach Joe Wicks, who is supporting mental health charity Mind’s Move For Mind campaign, says: “More than ever, we need to exercise.
“I feel amazing after a long bike ride, beating my 5k run personal best or a sweaty HIIT session.
“In the past year or so, I have also learned to appreciate the benefits of more gentle movement and the positive effect that can have on my wellbeing.
“Whether you get outside for a walk or make time for a five-minute stretch – moving your body will lift your mood.”
GP and TV Doctor Dr Philippa Kaye considers two things to be “absolutely essential for my mental health right now – the first is exercise, my kids know mummy’s working out time keeps her being a nice mummy!
“It doesn’t have to be hitting the weights, walking outside in whatever weather helps!
“The second is that I go to therapy – I started after my cancer diagnosis and still go now.
“My top coping strategy when feeling low is to share with others how you are feeling and get help when you need it.”
Walk, Talk and Cook
GP and TV Doctor Dr Rachel Ward has three fail-safe methods that she uses to take care of my mental health.
“If I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I know these activities will help.
“Firstly, getting outside and walking my dog.
“In rain or shine, getting out in the fresh air, breathing in nature and getting some exercise, helps me regain perspective and feel calm.
“Secondly, I am a sharer: a problem shared is a problem halved and my husband is generally the one who gets to hear about my concerns and any negative thoughts.
“Just saying things out loud and sharing how I am feeling, always makes me feel more able to tackle problems.
“If all else fails, I take to my kitchen.
“By doing a manual activity which requires concentration, your mind is distracted from other thoughts.
“Cooking always takes my mind away from negativity and preparing food for others always lifts my mood and gives me a sense of achievement.”
Hit the gym
SHAUN Stafford, Fitness Trainer and twice Fitness World Champ (@shaunstafford) believes “exercise is a great tool for helping with mental resilience.
“However, when your motivation to exercise gets tested, it’s all about going back to basics and trusting your process.
“Revisit the reasons why you are training – whether it be to get fitter, stronger, to lose weight or simply to stay sane – and take a step back to look at your workout schedule and training plans.
“Get present to why working out is important to you and how following your programs will get you one step closer every time you turn up.
“Then stick on your favourite playlist, crank up the volume and give it full beans!”