The cold, dark winter months, Christmas as well as the January blues can often be enough to test even the most resilient of us. And it would seem that within our society, more and more of us are facing these challenges on our own. Further exacerbating the stresses they can cause. Today, we are joining the Samaritans to turn ‘Blue Monday’ into ‘Brew Monday’ and help kick a very real, yet preventable problem within our society, into touch.
Now that the Christmas fairy dust has settled we are faced with the prospect of January, and winter at its most potent. Dark nights persist, baby it’s cold outside, but nowhere near as cold as the turkey you are experiencing whilst detoxing from all that sugar and booze. Your bank balance lands you on platform one of Povertytown Central and literally every email you get is a sale item testing your inner shopping addict to the max!
You’ve joined the gym, attended a class ONCE, and have spent the rest of the month immobilised with muscle soreness! Wondering how that gym fee, debiting your already overdrawn account, is ever going to make one bit of economical sense.
The ‘Silly Season’ is not without its challenges.
It can also, in many respects, be a divisive time of year for us all. The food choices alone have the means to do this! Think Brussel sprouts, Christmas pudding and mulled wine! Or how about choice of starter at the Christmas meal? Before or after the Queen’s speech? Do you or don’t you open a present before bedtime on Christmas eve?! Star or angel on the top of the tree!? Real tree or fake!?
But sadly, there are also the more serious dividing issues this most wonderful time of the year can bring to the fore; ones we all well know, either personally or we see others enduring, but may well not want to discuss, lest we tempt fate or at the very least, dampen the fun.
Then, there are the dark, cold winter January days that follow.
For some, the return to work in the new year heralds ‘time-out’ and much needed respite from the chaos and carnage this crazy time of year reeks on our bodies, minds and souls – perhaps too, relationships with family, friends and loved ones.
For others, there is the flip-side. New Year’s day becomes more and more overshadowed as the day progresses with that nagging dread building up to a crescendo at bedtime; another year over, holidays are done and that break you looked forward to so much for so long, comes to an end like a kick to the gut. Sunday night blues don’t touch the side in comparison.
Like so many things in life – what one person loves, another person can’t stand. For all the good and wonderful times Christmas offers to so many, for many others it can be an acute period of stress, misery and straws breaking backs.
Consider the uplifting New Year cheer from literally every news agency you care to name, informing us that January 8th, the first Monday of the first full week back at work, is referred to as D-day (D for divorce); due to the “spike” in enquiries received by lawyers. Unsurprisingly, it is also the busiest month of the year for Relate.
Again, the polar opposite is the loneliness many can feel so acutely over the festive period. A problem that many are claiming is an ever-growing issue we face as a society, with more and more research indicating just how bad it is for our health and wellbeing; both physically as well as mentally.
Ironically, the more we become connected virtually in the way we work, live and play, there is seemingly an ever-growing disconnect as a society. And Christmas can be one of those times that not only exposes the problem, but has a canny way of reinforcing just how negative solitude can be. Have you ever seen a Christmas advert showing someone enjoying Christmas on their own? Or, ever heard someone discussing, with eagerness, their plans to enjoy Christmas in solitude?
And despite the overwhelming sense of get-togetherness we are bombarded with as the ‘norm’, the reality would seem to indicate that, alarmingly, more and more of us may be doing quite the opposite.
With social factors such as divorce rates, as well as more and more people deciding to live on their own, increases in life-expectancy, lower childbirth numbers, living further apart from our nearest and dearest, not to mention the afore-mentioned way we do work and play; we have the makings of a potential perfect storm! Potentially of epidemic proportions, with research indicating that this may be a public health issue on a par with diseases such as obesity.
The science suggests that the effects can be as devastating as they are potentially life-shortening.
But here’s the thing; and for once, a good thing. Because unlike many of the other diseases we need scientists to help us find the cure, this is one problem we really don’t need them to help us solve. Everyone one of us has the power to do something about this. By helping others, we ultimately invest in help for ourselves. And over the last few weeks, we have read about some excellent initiatives kicked off to help us overcome this tough time in the year.
Heineken’s Brewing Good Cheer worked with local charities and pubs across the UK on Christmas day, showing the powerful role pubs can play in the community and bringing people together, and using this to offer Christmas dinner for those struggling with social isolation.
And today, being the much reported, increasingly derided ‘Blue Monday’ where we see Britain be, collectively, at its lowest ebb. Thankfully, the Samaritans have decided to help us kick ourselves out of this seasonal rut, by re-naming it Brew Monday, and encourage us to take the time to catch up with family, friends, work-mates, anyone, for a cuppa. So simple, and yet so powerful a remedy for social isolation and January blues.
And the best bit is, it doesn’t have to be today – every Monday can be Brew Monday. It could catch on! So simple, so effective, and so incredibly doable. If we all throw a few pence into the hat for a fantastic cause, and invest the time to grab a hot one with others in our respective communities every Monday, we chip away at such a terrible, yet preventable, problem within OUR society. And we ALL have it within us to solve it.
Mine’s a large Americano, what you havin’?
Hosie, R., (2016) The six most divisive traditional Christmas foods [online] in The Independent; 22nd December, at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/christmas-food-divisive-tis-the-season-traditional-sprouts-turkey-cake-mulled-wine-a7490961.html
The Sunday Express (2018) 'Divorce Day' - January 8 - looms with post-festive rise in couples considering a split [online] 3rd January, at: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/899516/Divorce-day-january-8-lawyers-couples-divorce-relationships-advicce
Hall, J., (2018) 'Divorce Day' as money worries drive couples apart [online] at BBC News; 8th January, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42598969
Mail on Sunday (2018) Divorce Day looms for warring couples with soaring numbers set to call time on their marriages tomorrow [online] 7th January, at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5242899/Divorce-Day-January-8-record-number-break-ups.html
Griffin, J (2010) The Lonely Society [online] The Mental Health Foundation, at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/the_lonely_society_report.pdf
Office for National Statistics (2017) Statistical Bulletin: Families and Households 2017 [online] 8th November, at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2017#how-does-the-number-of-people-who-live-alone-vary-by-age-and-sex
Malnick, E., (2011) 10 per cent rise in number of people living alone [online] in The Telegraph; 17th December, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/elder/11299527/10-per-cent-rise-in-number-of-people-living-alone.html
Ottewell, D., (2016) Number of people living alone to rise by a quarter over the next 25 years [online] in the Mirror; 12th July, at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/number-people-living-alone-rise-8406430
Khullar, D., (2016) How social isolation is killing us [online] in The New York Times; 22nd December, at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html
NHS Choices (2015) Loneliness 'increases risk of premature death' [online] 13th March, at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/mental-health/loneliness-increases-risk-of-premature-death/
Harris, R., (2015) The loneliness epidemic – we are more connected than ever – but are we feeling more alone? [online] 30th March, at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html
Valtorta, N.K., et al. (2016) Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies [online] British Medical Journal; 18th April, Iss. 102, p. 1009-1016, at: http://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009.info