Do You Have The January Blues?

Many people experience highs and lows throughout the year. For many, January is a tough month; following a time of celebration, a break from day to day life and the building frenzy around Christmas, January can feel flat. The usual things apply; the weather can be miserable; the mornings are dark and bank accounts can be decidedly empty. The 3rd Monday of the month is deemed the most miserable day of the year according to the media. Any New Year’s resolutions might be either starting to fail or becoming a weary struggle. We’re back into the routine and starting to feel tired again. For most people who feel this way, this feeling can be temporary and mild. However, for some who may be feeling more vulnerable anyway, perhaps those who were already struggling with low mood or anxiety, this time of year can compound difficulties significantly. So how can we manage this?

  • If you are struggling in facing the year ahead, try breaking the year down into chunks. Plan breaks throughout the year, even if it’s just a rough idea of when you will take leave from work. Make some plans to look forward to. Try not to think of everything you have to do over the course of the year at once; take one step at a time, as you would do the rest of the year.
  • If you have set yourself some resolutions or challenges for the year, ensure these are realistic and achievable. Goal setting can be a fantastic way of motivating yourself and making you accountable…. unless you overreach and make yourself feel like a failure in the process. Ensure you are not trying to change too many things at once. Many people set goals around exercise and diet in the new year and when it comes to it, it proves to be too big a step in one go. Set one goal alongside times in your diary to review your progress. If when it comes to it you are doing well, add another step in.
  • Keep an eye on your thinking process and the impact it is having on your mood. Writing things down or keeping a journal can help with this. You might notice tendencies to dwell on the negatives or the setbacks. You might notice an inclination towards criticising yourself. If this is the case, gently try to notice the positives too. We can’t easily stop some of our critical ruminative thought, but we can notice it and try to offer the other side of the coin too.  
  • Mobile apps such as MindShift can offer useful tips and ways of monitoring things. CALM and Headspace offer helpful guidance through meditation and mindfulness exercises.
  • Look after yourself: this is generally easier said than done for most of us. Often the basics such as trying to eat well, drinking more water and getting to bed on time can go a long way in giving us an energy boost. Trying to ensure you have a good work-life balance again is easier said than done, but is even more important if you are in a more fragile headspace.
  • Doing more of what makes you feel good. Whether this is spending time with friends, doing a hobby or having some chill-out time, it is important to create space for this in these times.
  • Exercise can be an incredible help in more difficult patches. Check out my previous blog on the power of exercise in supporting mood and anxiety difficulties.
  • As ever, talking to people you can trust can be incredibly supportive. Having someone listen and help you make sense of things can help you clear your head, or keep things in perspective. Connecting with others is shown to be stress relieving and can often remind us things are not as bad as they feel.
  • Showing yourself some compassion sounds simple but is generally quite a task for people particularly once they are being quite down on themselves. Again, this can help to relieve the pressure, high expectations and criticism we place upon ourselves. Beating yourself up for feeling low or anxious is particularly common, and unsurprisingly is not all that helpful!
  • Unfortunately, sometimes what helps is some time. While this is difficult to tolerate and can be exceptionally frustrating, we do naturally shift in our mindsets and our moods over time. That is not to say that we should ignore our emotional state and simply do nothing. Do reach out and let those around you know. However, hold onto the hope that things will feel different day to day; tomorrow might be a better day.
  • Perhaps key to avoid spiralling in mood, is to ensure you don’t fall into any traps which might inadvertently make things worse. For example, if night after night you’re feeling lethargic and lacking in motivation to go out, staying at home alone will often appeal more. In the short term, this might feel easier. However, over time, it is likely to fuel a vicious cycle: you might get more lost in ruminative thought, life might appear more negative and you will most likely feel more lethargic and isolated.
  • Developing some insight into the patterns that your mind and body go through can be helpful. Spot the changes in your thinking patterns early on; know the likely triggers that can make you feel worse, and learn what works for you.
  • While the above tips can be incredibly helpful at getting things back on track, it is also important to recognise when you need some extra support. It can be easy to keep pushing through; to keep trying new things to lift your mood; to distract yourself until it all feels more manageable. At some point however, you must consider your symptoms as your body and minds way of telling you its all a bit too much; you might need some help to explore things at a different level to really get some new insights or make some bigger changes. This, in itself, can be a hard and draining process. Accepting that you can’t manage it by yourself and opening yourself up to something new can make you feel incredibly vulnerable. This is why finding someone with the right expertise, who you can feel comfortable with is so important. It’s a challenging step but one that can pay off for the longer term, leaving you less liable to dips when life stressors inevitably occur.

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