Clinical Psychologist Shares Advice on Overcoming January Blues For Students

Monday, January 15, 2024

Going back to university or college after a long break any time in the year can often trigger low moods in students. It doesn't help that this time of year is often cold and dark, making getting up and going to classes harder for many. This is often referred to as the 'January Blues' or the 'New Year Slump'.

To help those struggling with going back to university or college this month, Best Apprenticeships has teamed up with Clinical Psychologist Dr Joanne Porter, who has used her 23 years of clinical experience to share 7 tips on how to handle the January blues as a student. 

Dr Joanne Porter shares exclusively with Best Apprenticeships:

"January blues (low mood, lack of energy and motivation), are experienced by many people and tend to last a few weeks following December celebrations. Lots of factors can underlie these feelings, including financial strain, shorter periods of daylight, overcast and rainy days, the impact of calorie and alcohol intake over the Christmas period. Returning to school after the celebrations can feel especially difficult.

You probably can't 'beat' the January blues but recognising that they are there and 'normal' can help you to work with them.

Be kind to yourself. You aren't going to be on top form in the first minute of the first day back in class. Make an intention to be present on the first days. Allow yourself time to pick up the threads you gradually dropped in the lead up to the Christmas break.

Nutrition and activity are known predictors of positive mental wellbeing, so keep active and gradually increase your intake of fruit and vegetables.

Get as much light as you can. Open that window and let the air get to your face 10-20 minutes every day.

Poor sleep negatively affects mood. Good sleep positively impacts mood, so make sure you are getting enough sleep.

Negative thinking can make people feel low. Record three good things at the end of each day to balance out any negative thoughts you have about yourself or your situation (e.g. not being at your best, or having to leave the celebrations behind).

Remind yourself where you were, e.g. when you started university or college, and note where you have gotten to. Then set small goals for the next few weeks or months for yourself and your work.

Evidence shows that having something to look forward to can also increase wellbeing, so start planning your next fun thing."

Alongside the 7 tips above, we encourage students to communicate if they are experiencing January blues to a trusted person. This could be a parent, friend, lecturer or University counsellor. Discussing these negative feelings openly can help to navigate this period and is crucial to keeping positive mental health whilst easing back into studying. 

If low moods are consistent and are negatively affecting your day-to-day life, speak to a medical professional.