Is January really as cruel as they say? For some, yes.
It is quite common to hear people talk about having the “January Blues” – low mood, decreased energy, and general malaise. Just not feeling like themselves. There are a number of reasons why we can get in a rut at this time of year:
- Post-holiday letdown. We may feel excited when there is build up to the holidays, but January sometimes means thoughts of “Now what?” Getting back to our normal routines after the holidays can feel kind of ho-hum.
- The weather. Cold, snow, dreariness – it can all add up to a dip in our mood if we’re not fans of winter.
- Less socializing. After the rush and get-togethers of the holidays, we may be less likely to meet up with friends and family, which can leave us feeling a bit isolated.
- All those holiday bills racked up come due in January, and paying the money is usually much less fun than the shopping.
- The pressure of resolutions. January 1st is often talked about as the day when we completely turn over a brand new leaf and make big and sweeping changes in our lives, but that isn’t always reasonable. Expecting too much of ourselves can lead to stress, disappointment, and low self-esteem, and yet we may forget this as soon as that New Year’s Eve ball drops.
While it is not unusual to experience mood changes as part of the January Blues, they are typically manageable, ease off after a few weeks, and don’t really disrupt our ability to live our daily lives. We can still go to school, go to work, care for our families, and do all the things we usually do, even if we’re a bit grumpier or down while doing them.
If, however, low mood and other symptoms like sleeping and/or eating changes, difficulty concentrating, crying, irritability, and feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt last longer than a couple of weeks and interfere with us doing the things we would normally do, it could be a sign of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression in which symptoms appear just during a particular season in the year, usually winter in our part of the world. These health conditions can affect anyone, and it’s important to take signs and symptoms seriously and get help early.
So, what can you do to stave off or cope with the January blues?
- Try something new and exciting. Sign up for a class, start volunteering somewhere that is meaningful for you, or repaint a room in your house. It can get you out of a rut, give you something to look forward to, and help you learn something new, bringing both short-term and long-term benefits.
- Get outside. Being exposed to less sunlight and vitamin D can cause a dip in our mood. Bundle up and go for a short walk, take your dog to the dog park, or even just open up your blinds and curtains to let the sun shine in.
- Eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. Many of us overindulge in food and alcohol over the holidays, and this is the time of year to get back into healthy routines. They are always important and especially so when we are feeling a bit low or lethargic.
- There is definitely the temptation to hibernate when it’s snowy and cold outside. Resist the urge and stay in touch with your friends and family. Even just a phone call can keep you connected and give you a much-needed pick-me-up.
- Have reasonable expectations. Just because “new year’s resolution” is a buzzword, it doesn’t mean you have to set goals that are unrealistic. Pick something simple like being a better listener or cleaning out your basement if you feel motivated to pick a goal. You’ll feel great if you accomplish it rather than being disappointed by an unmet, loftier choice.
- Make a plan. It’s true – the difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. If your post-holiday finances aren’t looking so great, figure out what you will do to change that. Maybe skip your daily expensive latte for a bit or bring your lunch rather than buying it. If you want to improve your eating habits and fitness, work out a meal plan and a schedule for exercising.
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression or SAD, talk to your healthcare we offer free walk-in counselling 4 days a week in Halton. No wait, no cost, no referral – just walk in and talk to a counsellor for an hour about any challenges that you are dealing with. We can help you find ways to improve your wellness, cope better, create positive solutions, and connect with others who can help. More details are available on our website here.
Just 154 days until summer…