At Reflex Nutrition, we value Mental Health just as much as Physical Health.
Science tells us that exercise and mental health are intertwined and we believe that making quality sports nutrition isn’t just about enhancing body condition,
strength and fitness but also about helping reach goals, enhancing wellbeing and ultimately making people feel good.
Sometimes we feel that the fitness world can forget that it’s about more than just looks. We want to bring mental health to the forefront so start conversations, break down barriers and come together as a community to support one another.
That's why we've reached out to Reflex Ambassador, Integrative counsellor & performance consultant Nicola Jane Hobbs for her top tips on dealing with the January Blues... So over to Nicola!
For lots of us, January feels like a dark, gloomy month. The short days, cold weather, financial pressures from overspending at Christmas, and the sense that it’s still a long time until spring can leave us feeling stressed, sad and sluggish. But a few simple strategies can help...
1. Realise that January Blues are normal
There are biological reasons why many of us feel sluggish in January. Scientific research has found that our circadian rhythms, melatonin secretion and neurotransmitter reuptake can all be disrupted in the winter months.
All of these things can contribute to us feeling stressed, exhausted and generally run down. Understanding that our biological rhythms are affected by seasonal changes, and that feeling a little down is very normal at this time of year, can be incredibly reassuring. (If you have been feeling more than ‘a little down’ for longer than a couple of weeks, this might be more than the January Blues and it’s important you reach out for help).
2. Hold your New Year’s resolutions lightly
In January, we often place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to lose weight or spend less or exercise more. And often, we set these goals for ourselves from a place of guilt or shame, rather than from a deep connection with our values – with the type of people we would like to become and the kinds of lives we would like to create.
Guilt and shame are not sustainable sources of motivation, and so we tend to fail at keeping our resolutions – and then beat ourselves up for doing so. Reflect on your New Year’s resolutions and whether they are motivated by a sense of guilt and shame, or whether they are rooted in your deepest values.
3. Get enough sleep
At the start of a new year, it’s tempting to trade sleep for productivity in the hope it will help us stick to our resolutions and achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves. But studies have found that even partial sleep deprivation can leave us feeling stressed, sad and mentally exhausted. If you are someone who regularly stays up late or gets up early so you can get more done, it might be helpful to reflect not only on what you want to get done, but also how you want to feel whilst you are doing them (it’s probably not ‘stressed, sad and exhausted’!).
4. Get enough daylight
Lack of daylight in the winter months can contribute to the January Blues by disrupting our bodies’ daily rhythms. Make getting outside everyday a priority (ideally within the first half hour of waking up), and you might like to invest in a light box too.
5. Stay active
Sometimes we find it difficult to stay active because we put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to go to the gym, do an intense 60-minute workout, and burn a boatload of calories. And often, the idea of this is so unpleasant, that we end up not going at all.
By expanding our idea of what exercise is, and exploring new ways of staying active, we usually stumble across an activity we enjoy. If you don’t enjoy running or working out in a gym, explore hiking, dancing, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, or walking the dog – it all counts.
6. Eat well
Turning to sugary, processed food when we’re feeling sad or exhausted is incredibly natural. And, sometimes, eating for comfort can be a healthy response when we are feeling down, a form of self-soothing. But if food is our only coping strategy, then it can be empowering and life-enhancing to explore other ways of comforting ourselves too (for example, meditating, having a bath, practising yoga, phoning a friend, or watching a rerun of your favourite show on Netflix).
Focussing on eating regular nutrient-rich meals full of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins, as well as exploring self-care strategies so we don’t always rely on sugar as a pick-me-up, can have a huge impact on our energy and mood.
7. Get to know your values
In January we are often so focused on our goals that we lose touch with our values. And many of us have never taken the time to reflect on our values at all. Whilst our goals are things we want to do or achieve in the future, our values are how we want to behave right now – how we want to treat ourselves, each other and the world around us on an ongoing basis. You might find it helpful to ask yourself: ‘As I move towards my goals, what kind of person would I like to be?’.
8. Make space for uncomfortable emotions
We can’t control how we are feeling, but we can control how we behave in response to those feelings. When we’re feeling sad, stressed and sluggish, we can find ourselves acting in ways that are self-defeating in an attempt to make those feelings go away (for example, we might scroll through social media to avoid feeling lonely, even though we know it increases our feelings of anxiety and isolation long-term).
By noticing, naming, and making space for our feelings, we can begin to separate our emotions from our actions, so that even when we don’t want to go for a walk because we feel sluggish, we can still choose to go for a walk because it supports our mental and physical wellbeing.
9. Practise self-compassion
Practising self-compassion means being mindful when we are struggling, treating ourselves with kindness instead of judgement and remembering our common humanity (recognising that life is hard for everyone sometimes). But if we’ve spent decades criticising ourselves, treating ourselves with kindness takes practice. Remembering that self-compassion is a psychological skill, and that just like any skill – juggling, Olympic weightlifting, playing guitar, it is going to take practice, can motivate us to be gentle with ourselves instead of habitually beating ourselves up and increasing our suffering.
10. Reach out for support
There are a lot of things we can do to ourselves in order to support our mental and emotional wellbeing, but sometimes we need a bit of extra help. This might mean reaching out to a friend or speaking to a professional. There are people out there who want to help us and we do not have to go through this alone.
For information on support services please visit our blog here.