Thursday, January 12, 2017
How to Cope With January
January has always been one of my favorite months. There is something beautiful about the quiet emptiness between the holidays and spring. I love blank calendars and early darkness and soup. So much soup.
But I'm having a good January. Some years ago I had the worst one ever. The worst part of my life happened to fall around the holidays and there was no shaking it off in the new year. I cried every day. Every. Day. I stood at the window and hoped for just the hint of a daffodil. "If I can just make it to spring..." I told myself.
A couple of Januarys when the kids were little seemed like they were just one bout of flu or strep after another. So if you are feeling depressed, run down, and worn out by the lack of sun and bleakness all around I get that. I have totally been there.
Which is the point of this post.
Let's put January in some context.
I am all about rhythms and cycles right now. I think it's because menopause is looming large (man, are you getting a lot of fun information today!) and periods now disappear for months at a time after a lifetime of predictability. Damn. I miss being able to count to 28. For all their inconvenience and downright pain, there was something about them that made me feel connected. Connected to seasons and phases of the moon and all the other cycles of nature. In the natural world, we see time for growth, fullness, waning, and loss, and emptiness.
Our ancestors, who lived closer to and worked with nature, were better equipped in their understanding of phases, seasons, and cycles. In our hyper-connected, tech-saturated lives it's all about constant growth and increased numbers whether that's sales or likes on Instagram. We live in a world where loss, pulling back, emptiness, and rest are not only not considered things to be desired but in many cases are demonized.
I have a serious problem with anyone who demonizes rest.
It is in this frame of mind that we meet January. January with its empty squares on the calendar and early darkness. Add to that the real issues of seasonal depression and lack of vitamin D from sunlight and many people are keen for winter to be over as soon as possible.
So what can we do if this is where we find ourselves on long dark nights and days of perpetual gloom?
Let's see January, or winter if you want to think of it in those terms, as a time for self-care. If you have kids at home August through Christmas were probably a mad rush of school supplies, Halloween costume dilemmas, and Christmas craziness. In the spring, all the sports will start along with the monster of standardized testing and the end of the school year. But right now, in the bleak mid-winter, when less is expected, you can take some time for yourself.
Now is the perfect time to light a candle and try meditation. Schedule a massage or plan a spa night at home. Read that book you meant to get to last year. Write a letter to a friend. Sit quietly and contemplate the outline of a bare tree. Watch birds. Imagine hibernating animals cozy in their winter dens. How can you not love winter if you picture a chipmunk asleep amid the pile of acorns she collected last fall? Stay in your pajamas all day on Saturday. Do nothing, without guilt. You are restoring yourself and gathering energy for spring.
Most of all, remember, it's a season. The furious rush of spring is coming! Planting, growing, Easter, Mother's Day, long lines at the garden center, sports, weddings, graduations--it's all on the way. So don't discount your restful January or despise your quiet winter.
Accept the gift of time for renewal.
Please note that this advice is for feeling blue or unhappy but still able to function. If you find yourself in such a state of depression that you cannot practice self-care on even the most basic level or feel completely hopeless I urge you to get outside help. On my darkest days, I have found a therapist, who can provide unbiased advice, to be the best road to take. If you feel your depression is spiraling, I beg you not to suffer alone.
Our bodies and minds are meant to acknowledge seasons, both in nature and in life. If you haven't ever thought about the ebb and flow of life I hope this helps you make it to those first daffodil blossoms!
So how do you feel about winter? What's your favorite strategy for coping with January?