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Blue Monday

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Tina South is ¼ of MidwivesinMind, alongside her like-minded team of midwives, Kara Davies, Stacey Keane and Julie Roberts (We come as a four!)

Monday 17th January 2022, is not your average Monday, and although in the current midwifery climate, it might be a ‘Manic Monday’, falling as this Monday does in the third week of January, this particular day has earned itself the moniker of ‘Blue Monday’. Both of these ‘Mondays’ for music and trivia enthusiasts alike are also songs by The Bangles and New Order respectively. Many different cultures assign various colours to different moods. With little research being done in the 1300s, and the reasons why not available to us, Geoffrey Chaucer is ascribed by some sources as the first author to equate blue with feelings of sadness.  In his poem ‘Complaint from Mars’ Chaucer wrote.

Wyth teres blewe and with a wounded herte (With tears of blue and a wounded heart).

But is it inevitable that you will feel blue or have the blues (also known as being ‘down in the dumps’ or feeling gloomy) on this particular day? The meaning of this day and its association with supposedly the saddest day of the year is filled with controversy. Yes, the third week in January signals the end for many in the United Kingdom (UK) of the festive season and the holiday period, however as qualified midwives and key workers, many have worked during this time period. In addition this year many midwives have supported the roll out of the vaccination programme in response to the omicron coronavirus variant. For many student midwives, this break in studies may have been the time when they have had to focus on completing assignments with deadlines due at the beginning of January.

As student/midwives, the mantra for good practice is to look at the evidence. The aforementioned Chaucer reference can be seen as weak. The ‘Blue Monday’ concept is even weaker as it stems from a press release as part of a publicity stunt by British Travel Company, Sky Travel, who cited Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall, and his equation for the third Monday in January being the most depressing day of the year. This formula considers multiple factors, the time after Christmas and those New Year resolutions, feeling a need to take action, combined with probable levels of debt, the weather at the time of year (this year however some of the mildest figures have been recorded on record in the UK) and also generally lower motivation levels. There is power in money and good advertising (look no further than Formula milk) and many companies jumped on the bandwagon to promote their products to combat ‘Blue Monday’. Arnall has since apologised for misleading, that feelings of gloominess can be pinpointed to one particular day, and has subsequently been involved in highlighting the importance of maintaining good mental health and the actions to support this.

It is heartening that The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2019) in their Standards of Proficiency for Midwives, have made specific reference in Domain 5 to the following two subsections. I suggest it is important for each and every student/midwife/manager, to take the time to read, and write out and print off the following and place somewhere prominent at home or in the workplace (the good old back of the toilet door).

5.14 Demonstrate how to recognise signs of vulnerability in themselves or their colleagues and the actions required to minimise risks to health or well-being of self and others.

5.15 Demonstrate awareness of the needs to manage the personal and emotional challenges of work and workload, uncertainty, and change; and incorporate compassionate self-care into their personal and professional life.

The following research has a credible base, that in order to look after others, it is important for all care givers to look after themselves first. But, please take a moment to reflect on how often YOU as a student/midwife place the needs of others before self. How many times have you come in early? Left work late? Not had a break? Not taken your allocated annual leave? Now ask yourselves, how many of you feel guilty for taking a break? For taking your allocated leave? For being off sick? Then put all that in the context, that you are currently working in a pandemic and many of you are working a double or triple shift when you get home as carers for children, relatives or parents, doing challenging undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

For those of you who still buy vinyl records (and a big thanks to the 24 people who answered a recent MidwivesinMind poll where 38% responded that they did) there is a B side to a singles track, and going back to the New Order song referenced at the beginning ‘Blue Monday’, the B side is called ‘Thieves Like Us’. One line of the lyrics for that track is ‘It’s called love, and somehow it’s become unmentionable’. Perhaps, as individuals in these times of change, and uncertainty and challenging workload, we may have to try and be more B side, and carve out time for own self-care, and think of ourselves as a record. Vibrations are created when a vinyl spins, and as time passes a vinyl will wear and tear, leading to changes in the sound. There is so much pressure in the National Health Service and Academia, that we need to listen out for the voices of our students and colleagues who suddenly do not speak up as much or become more and more quiet. A vinyl record needs to be cared for in order to keep it in good condition, it needs to be removed from the sleeve and handled with care when placed on the record player. Not just on ‘Blue Monday’ but everyday midwifery students and staff should be similarly nurtured.

The Midwives in Mind team were brought together as part of a Midwifery Leadership Development Group Programme, a joint initiative by the Royal College of Midwives in Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government. Each member has a passionate interest in the promotion of compassionate self-care and the well-being of students and Registered Midwives (whether on community, in Birth Centres, in research or academia).

Early work by the team focused on the development of the following posters to be displayed in one maternity unit.





However, the team recognised that the promotion of self-care is universal. The social media platforms of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook were used as a platform to share the posters to a wider midwifery circulation. Now regular posts are either original posts or the recirculation of positive affirmations or good news stories. So, rather than feel alone and have a ‘Blue Monday’, if you need a pick up, please interact with us and let’s aim for ‘Motivation Monday’ and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Tina South

Twitter: MidwivesInMind

Instagram: MidwivesInMind