Feeling despair at the prospect of facing into a new year. Dreading the dark winter weeks ahead. Tired after the stresses and strains of Christmas. Struggling to get back into the old routine. Anxious about what this year may bring. January can certainly be a difficult month.
If we’re feeling low right now it’s important to remember we’re not alone. January the 21st is officially named as the “gloomiest day of the year”. But why do so many of us find ourselves struggling at this time of year?
The festivities of Christmas are behind us and we’re facing many cold, dark weeks before spring is with us again. We may struggle to get out of bed on the dark winter mornings. Those of us who have found Christmas stressful may find it hard to gather the energy needed to face into the demands of the year ahead. The strain of organising Christmas and the stress it often puts on our families can leave us feeling if we have no reserves left. For some of us it can be hard to let go of the holidays and get back into our old routines. Returning to work or our regular day-to-day schedule can seem bleak and may leave us feeling low.
January can also be a time when we resolve to make important changes in our lives. How many of us decide now is the time to start getting fit, losing weight, giving up smoking or drinking? But sometimes these resolutions can leave us feeling as though we are facing an uphill road where there is much to be done and little enjoyment to look forward to.
For those of us who are feeling the “January Blues” there are some simple steps we can take to help us cope better with the challenges of a new year.
Ensure that any goals are positive and realistic. After the indulgences of Christmas, we often fix on goals that can be overly demanding or rigid. Deciding we will lose a certain amount of weight in a set time or give up drinking/smoking entirely may seem like a positive thing. But placing unrealistic or punishing expectations on ourselves can actually work against us. Remember it is better to make small sensible steps in the right direction for a consistent period rather than following an extreme plan for a short time before giving up because we are exhausted or demoralised. This can help us to avoid falling into the vicious cycle where we feel guilty and worthless because we cannot achieve a specific goal and so make further unrealistic resolutions. Settle on some achievable, healthy goals and resolve to be kind with ourselves if we do have the odd slip. Remember nobody is perfect and we are much more likely to succeed if we are not placing quite so much pressure on ourselves.
Look after our basic needs. Christmas can be a time of disruption with sleeping and eating patterns thrown into disarray. We might not realise it, but this can have a negative effect on our mood and sense of well-being. January can be a time to recover and re-balance ourselves. Focus on establishing set meal times with healthy food where possible. Getting sufficient sleep is important as lack of sleep is frequently linked to low mood. Taking some regular exercise is also a good way of taking care of our bodies and has been proven to boost mood as well as overall energy levels.
Reach out to other people. When we are feeling low it can often be tempting to hide away. However, at times like these it can really help to talk to those around us. Reach out to trusted family and friends. We may discover that many of them have had similar feelings. Talking not only helps us to feel less alone, it can also allow us to vent difficult emotions and can help us to better understand our thoughts and feelings.
Getting through January can seem like a struggle. Following these steps can help us manage the challenges we face and may actually allow us to make this month a positive start to the new year.
I’m always happy to talk about how life can be better.
Make a change today.
Have a great week,
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. laois