If you consumed any form of media yesterday, you were almost certainly told it was Blue Monday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year. You would imagine as a psychiatrist I would have been speaking about the day, advocating for people seeking help and checking in with each other.
Of course, checking in with each other and speaking about mental health more is a good thing, something I would hope we all do more. The reason I was silent yesterday is the idea of Blue Monday is a fiction. Yes, there is some evidence mental health worsens on a Monday (trigger warning, suicide), but the data suggests it is every Monday, with no evidence the third Monday of the year is any different from the rest.
That being said, this January does feel more glum than is usual. For those of you prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, we are at the peak of low light and need to making sure to get plenty of light (natural ideally, with the SAD lamp if not). And even for those of us without SAD, the lockdown is certainly making things more depressing.
In the gloom, it has gotten me thinking a little more about an impending anniversary (of sorts); the 23rd March. For those of you in the UK, the 23rd March will be a year since the original lockdown began. Yes we are still two months away, but it certainly feels like we could make it to the 23rd while still in lockdown, marking a year where we have been under restrictions of some degree.
I could sit here and lament the loss of a year. I could think about all the things we have lost (and let’s not pretend it has been a lot), while thinking of the losses still to come.
But you’ll be pleased to read I’m not going to do that. Instead, in a similar vein to my post from September last year, I am going to try and put a year into some Perspective.
You probably don’t need a year explaining to you in much detail, but for the few of you who have somehow lived much of your life in a cave, a year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun once. It takes roughly 365.25 days for the Earth to complete the orbit, which works out at roughly 8766 hours.
I’m thirty (and a bit…) years old. Assume I’m exactly thirty, and I would have lived for just short of 263,000 hours. This year of would have been 1/30th of my life (obviously) or 3.3% of the time I have had on Earth so far. The older you are, the smaller the percentage, the younger you are and it might make up more of your life.
It might seem like a lot of time lost to some degree of lockdown, but how does that compare with other facets of life?
Let’s start with work. I qualified as a doctor at the age of 23. Assuming my hypothetical age of 30, that means I have seven years under my belt. If we further assume I work only five days a week for eight hours a day and have six weeks leave a year (I wish on the first two parts), that would mean I would approximately 230 days in the year, or 1846 hours, giving a grand total of 12920 hours spent working since I turned 23. If you started work earlier in life or worked longer of course it could be more.
But how much of my life have I spent working so far. Remember we had 3.3% in lockdown, which pales in comparison when you realise 4.9% of my entire life has been spent at work. Do the same for school (not including university) and I spent 6.3% of my life so far at school. Consider something like sleeping (again assuming I get 8 hours a night) and a full third of my life (33%) has been spent in the land of nod.
Spending a year in some level of government restrictions (in a noble effort to halt a deadly pandemic don’t forget) can feel like an arduous slog, a year wasted when things feel hopeless. But I wonder if this is because this year has been condensed into a small amount of time. Even at the age of thirty, the lockdown year when it is done will not come close to the amount of time I have spent at work, or school, and certainly not sleeping. I think while we find ourselves in a time of year and a series of circumstances which make the world feel dark and the future bleak, it is important to remember this year will remain only a small percentage of our lives, a blip to be talked about for years to come no doubt, but a blip none-the-less.
And if you still cannot see how you will make it through the next two months and beyond, why don’t you try upping your sleep percentage a little bit. At the very least you might feel a little more refreshed and rested, and time will have flown by just a little bit quicker!