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Blue Monday: Surviving the gloomiest day of the year

Story and photo by Sharon Harrison
It’s no surprise many people don’t like Mondays. But the Monday falling in the middle of January – a month some find to be one of the most difficult of the year to navigate – is known as Blue Monday.

The Carpenters sang about it with Rainy Days and Mondays, Fats Domino captured the mood with Blue Monday and The Boomtown Rats nailed it for many with a flat out: I Don’t Like Mondays. There are dozens of song titles containing the word Monday, some with happy connotations, but many more come with a dismal vibe with gloomy or blue in the title.

Monday, Jan. 15 is recognized globally as Blue Monday, a day in the calendar dubbed the glummest, gloomiest, saddest, bleakest and most depressing and miserable day of the year. The day lands on a different date each year in January (usually the third Monday in January) and is calculated using a specific mathematical formula.

Blue Monday, observed annually since 2005, is a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging the winter blues and perhaps even coaxing a smile, but it has no scientific basis.

The day first came about when a UK travel agency attempted to market winter vacations as part of a publicity campaign and the idea simply took off.

The day of gloom recognizes many factors including the time elapsed since the holiday season, the fading of Christmas memories and celebrations, expanding waistlines, the number of days of failed New Year resolutions and the accumulation of debt – all contributing to low motivational levels.

Factor in cold and flu season, frigid cold and harsh wintry weather, those who have already given up on hopes of getting fit and eating healthier and you have all the ingredients for the blues. Add in the darker, short days of winter along with a lack of warmth and sunshine and some people are sent into a tailspin.

January brought good news for some with an increase to the regular minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 an hour. The increase is a welcome relief to many low-income workers in the County, but the 20.7 per cent increase has been difficult for some local business owners to absorb. A further increase of $1 per hour (7.2 percent) to $15 per hour will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Emily Cowan, executive director of the Prince Edward County Chamber of Commerce indicated the majority of their members pay above the minimum wage and while she hasn’t heard of any specific problems from local businesses or if any expect to have to raise the price of services or wares, the recent wage increase is still in its infancy.

“What our members are faced with are those employees who are already being paid at or around the new minimum wage,” said Cowan. “It’s still a bit of an issue when you have someone who has been there for a while and has some experience who was being paid above minimum wage is now being paid at minimum wage and perhaps will want to be paid more because the next person who comes along without any experience is going to be paid the same. That’s the big question mark for a lot of members right now.”

Cowan indicated that a lot of Chamber members are looking at other ways to give incentives to employees including introducing group health benefits or other perks that aren’t entirely financial, but are useful to the employee, such as flexi time.

“They are just trying to find other ways to retain staff because one of the reasons why most employees are paid above minimum wage already is because there is a huge demand for workers,” said Cowan, adding, “There are too many open positions and not enough people applying for them.”

Cowan indicated that some of the problem with the minimum wage increase is the timing. Jan 1. in the County is rough because it is the beginning of the slowest time of year for many businesses.

“We haven’t even got a year to budget for it. Whatever plans we made last year for this year aren’t really going do the trick,” said Cowan.

Bill 148 came into effective on Jan. 1 with sweeping and significant changes to provincial labour laws including the way holidays are formulated.

“It’s harder to understand and no one can get through on the helpline and employers are getting a busy signal and can’t get the help that they need to figure out how to pay people properly,” said Cowan.

The PEC Chamber of Commerce was in contact with area businesses to help get them prepared for what was coming. Cowan noted a workshop will be held in the next few weeks to further assist businesses to implement the changes of Bill 148.

“We are looking at it from a business support stance at this point and are going to be available to help them whatever way we can to understand the legislation to make sure they are doing it right.”

“It’s pretty tough for everyone and businesses are doing the best they can to carry on. I’d like to think that our County business owners are good people who were already paying their employees well, so hopefully for a lot of them it won’t feel much of a difference, but no one really knows yet.”

For some, the January blues highlight the serious aspect of managing mental health issues. Depression, feeling down or sad, seasonal affective disorder and general lethargy are real mental health issues whose symptoms may become worse during the darker and colder months of winter.

Recommendations to help feel better through January include movement, routine and self-care.

Get moving. Getting the blood circulating can have a positive effect of state of well-being at any time of year, but especially in winter. Establishing routine and good sleep patterns is essential in combating the winter blues. General self care in the form of good nutrition, staying hydrated along with proper relaxation can all be helpful.

With a landscape devoid of sunshine and colour, consider buying fresh flowers or a pot of spring flowering bulbs to brighten a room and to cheer the spirit. Surround yourself with colour, laughter and music – and children or animals.

While the County is in quiet mode, there is still much to do, many businesses are open and there are plenty of activities to occupy the mind, keep busy, volunteer and help others.
Most of all, be kind to yourself.

On the positive side, the days are getting longer and lighter by about two minutes per day on average. By the end of January, we will have gained more than 22 minutes of daylight. One month from now, that figure increases to over 42 minutes and Daylight Saving Time begins in just 55 days.

For those wishing the month away, January will be over in 16 days; February is a short month with only 28 days and spring arrives in March—64 days from now!

Filed Under: News from Everywhere Else

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