To start, some truth:
January can be hard.
And if you are finding it hard, that does not make you weak.
Because it can be hard.
I feel this is worth repeating, let me make sure you know before you read any further:
it is okay to be finding it hard. You are okay.
So, Christmas is over, the decorations have been taken down and any post-holidays fog of wine and chocolate has lifted and been replaced by the stark reality that we are in a new year. 2018 is here. Everywhere there are adverts inviting me to become a ‘new me’ in this new year. I am encouraged from every corner to make a positive change, to improve myself.
And none of this is bad. Sometimes it can feel great to have a clean slate and start afresh.
But if it is all you can do to just get through this hard month, this enforced positivity can make things harder. It can feel like you are failing for not thriving, when it is all you can do to survive.
As a depression and anxiety sufferer I know how the cold days and lack of sunlight can make January feel like a punishment and a penance. In January it is easy to feel isolated and alone.
So, for my first new post this year I am not starting with resolutions, I am starting with comfort and reassurance. Because, that is what I need, and I am guessing you might too.
We are doing great, we will weather this winter together.
Let’s spend this month looking after ourselves, investing in some self care and learning how to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion.
To begin this campaign of self love, here are a list of ideas to get us started.
Think of these as suggestions, or better still, permissions, to enable you to survive and maybe even enjoy this tricky time of year.
- Make small plans. The emphasis here is on the word small. Tiny tweaks can change something ordinary into something special. It only takes a little planning. Arrange to have lunch with a work colleague rather than eating at your desk. Decide to treat yourself to a coffee on the way to work from the fancy coffee shop. Wear clothes that you love, colour is good – maybe a brightly coloured scarf or a fun bobble hat (I love bobble hats). Invite a friend to come over and watch box sets on the weekend – tell them to bring slippers and wear their comfiest clothes. Plan and cook a roast. It doesn’t have to be anything major, small plans can help to lift your mood.
- Make the most of dry and sunny days. If it is dry and clear and bright, get out in to the fresh air. Even if it is freezing, you will feel better for it. If all you can manage or fit into your day is a walk around the block, do that. Get all the vitamin D you can. Wrap up warm and breathe in the cold air, then when you are home make a big pot of tea and feel proud of yourself.
- Celebrate successes, however small you might think they are. Congratulate yourself for making a tricky phone call, or getting out of bed as soon as the alarm sounds. Saying ‘well done’ to yourself might sound silly but it will remind you that you are doing hard things and this is a success.
- Light a candle. Christmas might be over but that doesnt mean that you home can’t be warm and the lighting favourable. Light a nice candle and the lamps (no big light!). Arrange the cushions and find a blanket. Make your relaxation space pleasurable (if necessary throw all toys into the hall/ behind the sofa). If you have been caring for others all day this might seem like too much effort but you won’t regret it. By making your environment nice you are reminding yourself that you deserve nice things too.
- Treat yourself to a good read. Ask a friend you trust (whose taste is similar to yours) to lend you their favourite novel. If reading is a struggle (as it can be if you are suffering with depression) download an audio book, or find a podcast you love. A good story is like a good friend. Treat yourself to an early night to read another chapter. (And can I just say audio books and podcasts have changed my life. I love to read but often have lots of practical stuff to get done – looking after the kids and the house, school run blah blah. Listening to something I have chosen and find interesting or exciting makes it all so much more enjoyable. It has even made going to the gym pleasurable (sometimes!).)
- Bring fresh flowers or foliage into your house. Even if it is some ivy or holly from the great outdoors, bringing some kind of nature indoors and sticking it in a vase on your table can have a positive effect on your mood. Supermarket flowers are a good bet, find the early daffodils or tulips. Whenever you see them they will act as a physical reminder that spring is on the way.
- Seek out beauty. Set yourself a little challenge and use your phone to snap a picture of something unexpectedly beautiful. As soon as you start looking for it, you will become your own curator and will discover more and more ordinary glory. Start an instagram account to collate your images and share them with others. I do this on days when I feel low, even the most everyday things become beautiful when you really look at them.
- Use the fancy crockery. Not all the time, but some days turn a regular meal into an occasion. Use the nice crockery and light some candles, find some napkins and possibly a tablecloth, take pleasure in the everyday rituals.
- Have a clear out. I love a good declutter. There is something about getting rid of unnecessary items and sorting that feels therapeutic and cleansing. I often have my best ideas while my brain is occupied with a menial task like this. Allow your mind to wander, you may be surprised with the problems you solve as you allow space for mental freewheeling.
- Make small changes. New diets and exercise regimes might feel impossible but try and make a small change. Even something tiny: one less spoonful of sugar in your tea, getting up 15 minutes earlier, laying out your clothes before you go to bed, walking to the further bus stop once a week, read one poem every night before you go to sleep (this is what I am doing – using a book I’ve had for years called A Poem A Day). Taking charge of one tiny aspect of your day will help you to start to build the muscle of volition and help you feel more in control.
These are just ideas, or starting points. What do you do to help you cope with the January blues?
I’d love to hear your ideas, leave me a comment below and let me know your tips.
And however your January goes let me remind you that it is okay to find it hard, you are doing great.
Big love X
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