Windsor

Feeling sad? Local experts say Blue Monday is a good time to check in with yourself, others

While some Windsor residents are feeling more down this Blue Monday with the pandemic and stay-at-home order, the one thing keeping them happy is getting outdoors and going for a stroll. 

'People really are struggling,' says one counsellor

Isolation can cause people to ruminate or develop negative coping strategies, says CMHA workplace outreach worker Allison Chandler, adding that staying socially connected is 'vital.' (Shutterstock)

While some Windsor residents are feeling more down this Blue Monday with the pandemic and stay-at-home order, the one thing keeping them happy is getting outdoors and going for a stroll. 

"I usually come [to the Riverfront] with my wife, my children for a walk. I find it relaxing to do some exercise. That's what you can do in this situation," said Windsor resident Alex Kolnikaj. 

The third Monday in January is often referred to as Blue Monday or the saddest day of the year. The post-holiday slump and bad weather are said to give the day its title, though there's no scientific proof to suggest it's real.

But this year, the day comes at the height of provincial COVID-19 restrictions and after Windsor-Essex has been in lockdown for a little more than a month. 

During that time, a long list of rules have been put in place including closing non-essential stores to in-person shopping, restricting gatherings to those living in the same household and having people stay home as much as possible. 

Beth Ternovan, manager of counselling programs and the employee assistance program at Family Services Windsor-Essex, said the day should be a reminder for people to check in on their mood. 

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Windsor resident Alex Kolnikaj told CBC News he goes down to the Riverfront and walks to relax. (Talish Zafar/CBC)

"Blue Monday is a day that can act as a signal, that any day of the year is the day to reach out to get the help that you need. If your intuition is telling you, you know I've been feeling down for quite some time ... let Blue Monday be a representative signal of the fact that any day is the day to get help," she said. 

Ternovan added that reaching out for help and leaning on others is one way to find support, but another coping mechanism can be going for walks. 

"Exercise is what we call behavioural activation,even walking for 20 minutes, let alone 30 minutes ... it changes our outlook and when we change our outlook, it changes our mood," Ternovan said.

CBC News spoke with four other Windsorites on Monday who all said the same thing as Kolnikaj: physical exercise makes them feel better. 

But often times it's not that simple.

WATCH: CBC News spoke with locals about Blue Monday

Windsorites talk about how they're feeling on Blue Monday

1 month ago
1:02
Locals say going for a walk helps change their mood 1:02

'Vital' to stay connected with others right now

In addition to positive coping mechanisms, Canadian Mental Health Association counsellor Allison Chandler, who specifically provides workplace outreach support to front-line workers across different sectors in the region, said its important people continue to stay connected. 

"One of the things that I'm noticing is that people really are struggling," she said. "What I'm seeing is a lot of the people coming forward for help tend to be people who have struggled with mental illness in the past and those struggles are exacerbated by the pandemic." 

A quick phone call, video chat or text message are the best ways to connect and are "vital" given the times we're living through, Chandler said. 

"It helps to reduce the feelings of isolation right now obviously with restrictions that have been put in place," she said. 

Isolation, Chandler said, can increase a person's chances of developing a mental illness and enhance cognitive impairments in elderly people. 

"People tend to practice more negative coping strategies when they're isolated so things like turning to substance use or addiction," she said. "When we're isolated, it's really easy to kind of ruminate on any negative thoughts or feelings that we're having ... people process thought and process feelings by talking." 

And if the person doesn't feel as though they have a support system in place, Chandler said writing in a journal can also help the brain process emotions.

LISTEN: Counsellor Allison Chandler talks about Blue Monday

Today is widely known as Blue Monday, one of the saddest days of the year, though some experts say the third Monday in January isn't actually more depressing but can be a time when people feel low. Afternoon Drive reporter Kaitie Fraser checks in with some former guests of the show, experts, and a family member to see how everyone is doing. 8:28

Who you can reach out to 

But there are also many local support services to reach out to. 

According to Ternovan, Family Services Windsor-Essex offers a limited amount of free counselling that people can access by calling (519) 966-5010 and asking for customer care. 

She said there's also the Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre offered by Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare at (519) 973-4435. 

You can call the Canadian Mental Health Association's Windsor-Essex crisis line free of cost at (519) 973- 4435. Even if you are not in crisis, you can still call this number and be transferred. 

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