The third Monday of January 2023 has been branded Blue Monday. It begins what many describe as the most depressing week of the year. It is a gloomy time for a number of reasons including a dip in mood after Christmas, the harsh winter conditions and financial debt. People also tend to lack motivation after
attempting to implement their new year’s resolutions. The following suggestions may serve as guidelines to help us get through Blue Monday and to get back on track with the divine.
It is a wonderful opportunity to pray when we may be in low mood or depressed. We can speak ‘heart unto heart’ with rawness, pouring out my despair and inner turmoil to God. We may not sense a divine presence at all, but praying acknowledges that we are rightly dependent on God who we need more than
ever during this time. We can join with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done”. Similarly, we can pray: “Father, let this darkness pass me by, but if I must endure it, your will be done, not mine”. We may feel
some consolation from this self-emptying and, like Jesus, be comforted by an angel.
2) Share my desolation with support persons
This step is often a top priority when I am out of sorts and need to draw on the strength of those I trust. But, I am often, for instance, not quick enough to contact my loved ones which leads to further desolation in the form of loneliness and despair. I may be plodding through my day with a lack of awareness over my vulnerable mood. When I try to anchor myself for a moment or two, e.g., through deep breathing, an honest answer may surface which then calls me into action. I have different words of expression: “I feel low”, “I’m down in the dumps”, “I’m stressed out”, “I’m disconnected”, “I feel like blah”. My pain lessens a
little bit when I share my desolation with others, and a supportive response can make all the difference.
3) Keep to my routine and appointments
I need to draw on every ounce of inner strength to continue with my daily tasks. Every step may feel like a hike up the mountain – getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, arriving to work, attending meetings, completing a project. I may feel like nothing is getting done, but I can rest assured that the only way out
of a problem is through it. I can give myself permission to let go of the normal pace of life: going for a slow walk in the daylight instead of a faster one is absolutely fine. Ignatius’s concept of agere contra (‘act against’), meaning to do the opposite of my natural inclinations, comes to mind during this time. Knowing that my feelings cannot be trusted can actually empower me to dig deep and persevere.
4) Be with others:
a) Push myself to talk, or b) Express my desolation and be myself
Like keeping to my routine and appointments, it is also good to be with others during this time. Withdrawing into isolation or getting lost in distractions will get me nowhere. A further bit of discernment may be involved as I sit down next to people. I may, for example, need to force myself to contribute to a
conversation with colleagues. Talking about the weather, news or celebrity gossip may be more manageable than talking about my real life. On the other hand, I may find that sharing my desolation with certain colleagues is helpful, enabling me to show my vulnerable side and remaining quiet if I wish. I may
feel safe in the company of others, as if held by the goodness of the love of God.
5) Have a cup of tea
Having a cup of tea or other soothing drink can create a homely atmosphere to wherever I may be. It is an opportunity to be mindful: to notice the taste, the temperature of the drink, the colour of the mug. A snack may complement my drink and again it is a chance to be mindful. Tea drinking is an Irish tradition
in which many good conversations take place. It may stimulate the other person to open up and share something of themselves. I may connect with their humanity and transcend my pain or suffering for a moment or two. The tediousness or drudgery of my tasks may disappear in the midst of a heart-warming
and inclusive conversation, reminding me of the divine presence. I drink decaffeinated tea after dinner time.
6) Do something creative (note a point on good decision-making)
Writing or engaging in another creative activity can do the world of good for my soul. Writing words on a page can validate my thoughts and feelings in a concrete way. “I feel like a mess at the moment”, I may write, “but I know something or someone is there. God, give me the power to do what is needed, to wait for the rising sun.” My words can speak to the longings in my heart. They have the power to anchor me because they give expression to my true self.