For many of the offshore population Christmas Day is a normal working day but those who are lucky enough to enjoy the holiday onshore will have celebrated alongside family and friends and enjoyed some well-earned festive eating, drinking and relaxation.
Now that January is here, reality can have a bit of a nasty bite. Did we indulge too much? What has 2013 in store for us and our loved ones?
It’s very easy at this time to feel a bit down. Little wonder as festive frivolities seem like a distant memory; we’re back at work; the next break seems a long way off; the credit card’s been hammered and the weather is lousy.
When one is gloomy it’s easy to become withdrawn and feel apathetic about socialising with friends and family. Sometimes even the things that you usually enjoy fail to pleasure.
It’s nothing new and is echoed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2, where Hamlet seems to have lost his lust for life.
“I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air – look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire – why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.”
So what can we do to beat the January blues?
What is likely to help us to feel positive and happy? For over 70 years, researchers at Harvard have been following the lives of 268 men through each stage of their lives including education, living through a war, careers, marriage, parenthood and on to old age. The study has concluded that longevity is more influenced by happiness than by being born into wealth and that having a loving family and good friends is what makes us most happy.
So already we can see just how important it is to keep up relationships with our family, friends and those who care about us.
We can simultaneously get our bodies back into shape. Exercise helps to release a variety of “feel good” chemicals and can boost mood.
Getting into an exercise routine, including taking invigorating walks in natural daylight can help us feel more in control of our wellbeing in that we are being proactive, rather than feeling helpless and lounging on the couch. Team up with a colleague or friend if that helps.
What we eat is important too. Rich Christmas food may induce lethargy and it can be a real challenge, returning to healthy eating.
Seriously, eating healthily, keeping well hydrated (not with alcohol and sugary stuff) and being active every day will help to improve your sleep quality, lift your mood and boost your energy levels.
Sometimes it only takes quite trivial things to cheer us up. If you are into music try downloading something stirring and when you are on your own (in the car or in your accommodation offshore) belting out a song yourself. Why not get up and bust a few moves or play some epic riffs on your air guitar.
If it’s grey and dark outside, wear cheery colours and get a calendar with daily jokes and smart sayings to put a smile on the face.
Plan short breaks ahead of the summer vacation; even just a day chilling at home, relaxing.
And, when down, talk to your friends and family rather than isolate yourself. These are the people who know you best and care about your wellbeing – they may well have some very helpful insights for you.
But if you continue to feel low and it’s seriously concerning you, then speak to the medic on your rig or installation and talk things through. They will be able to advise whether you should seek professional medical help as depression can be a serious issue.
There are organisations that can help such as Mind (www.mind.org.uk), Sane (www.sane.org.uk), NHS Direct (www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) and Samaritans (www.samaritans.org or telephone 08457 90 90 90). Speak to your GP about how you feel – asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.
If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t just leave it and hope for the best and likewise, if your head feels broken seek help.
Dr Steve Boorman is medical director for occupational health services at Abermed