January is sh**, what else can I say? We all know it. Thirty one long days of bitter weather, dark nights and hardcore detoxes. Everybody around us is fed up and generally low in spirits, (literally)!
I’m no exception to the season. When the alarm goes off at 7am, my instinct is to protest and clutch at the duvet. My brain goes into overdrive, screaming; “No! It’s too much, you can’t face the world today. Phone in sick!”
Trust me, when you work for yourself, phoning in sick in even harder.
Me: Hi Claire, I’m afraid I won’t be coming in today, I’m not feeling well.
Me again: Really? Because I’m in here too and I’m not sensing any illness.
Me: Well I’m proper ill yeah… just accept it! I’ll try again tomorrow.
Me again: Get the f**k out of bed. You’re feeling blue not ill, and you’ll feel the same way tomorrow unless we do something about it!
My inner dialogue could go on for thousands of words…
Yes ok, I feel blue and have zero energy, which is weird seeing as I’ve slept for eight hours straight.
Why is this happening?
Well for starters, let’s try to rationalise things a little.
You probably feel lethargic because you were eating and drinking to excess over the holidays and now you’ve abruptly stopped. All that sugar, alcohol, excess caffeine and other wonderfully tasty but ultimately bad stuff has been removed from your system, and your body is mourning it’s loss. It came to expect/rely on something external to help it function and feel good, and now it isn’t there anymore. It’ll take time to re-stabilise, but don’t worry, it will.
The dark. They don’t call it the winter blues for nothing! There’s sound scientific evidence to support the idea that seasons can affect our moods, and a lack of daylight can interfere with hormones. Alison Kerry, from the mental health charity MIND, argues that daylight prevents the production of Melatonin (a sleep hormone). Therefore, during the early winter months the body produces too much, causing us to feel over tired. Fatigue also has an impact on mood. I feel at my worse mental illness wise during January.
You’re broke. Suddenly that early December pay day ain’t feeling so great! Particularly as you spent a fortune over Christmas and now have to live off a pittance until the end of the month. And there are SO MANY sales to tempt us!!
What can we do about it?
Fear not, there are a few simple things that can be done to make January more bearable. As usual, they’re not easy, but DO help.
Don’t overdo the detox – Whilst I think dry January and clean diets are very positive, they can also be too extreme. We punish ourselves for still wanting all the bad stuff that we’re avoiding, but its a natural response! As I mention above, it’s going to take time for the body to re-stabilise, and if you live with mental illness then you should consider how a detox will affect your mood.
Please don’t misunderstand my intentions, I’m not the Devil trying to tempt you away from the good life. If your current detox/diet is working for you then fantastic! I simply ask that you check in with yourself and be kind. For example, regular readers will know that wine is my vice. I love it, end of. Chocolate, crisps and other junk food I can give or take, but wine is my Achilles heel. Over the holidays I was drinking practically every day for a fortnight. Not good. However, realistically, to stop cold turkey for thirty-one days is going to make me miserable. I’ve done it before and it didn’t work. So instead, I allow myself to drink three nights a week (instead of seven), but only have the ONE glass. You can customised this plan depending on your vice.
I’ve also started having hot water and lemon in the mornings again, instead of coffee. Most people think this is a drink just for dieters, but it’s also great for the brain. The water will flush out any toxins and boost your energy, and lemons are packed with magnesium, which is great for the nervous system.
Watch my Youtube video on mental health nutrition here.
Get more light – I whip out my light box every year. Also referred to as a SAD lamp, but that label feels rather defeatist to me! I find light therapy really helpful. Yes ok, it’s bloody bright and offensive when you first turn it on. My husband refers to it as my ‘marijuana lamp.’ However, after a few minutes your eyes climatise. It basically tricks your brain into thinking that the light from the box is natural sunlight.
I bought my light box in 2014 and it’s still going strong. Click here for more details.
(No, I’m not on commission from Amazon).
If this isn’t for you, then you could try an early morning session in the gym. When I worked in an office I’d go to the gym at 7:30 for forty-five minutes. Getting up was a killer at 6:30, but I felt like I had purpose. Being in the gym with the bright lights, music and positive activity made me feel better. Getting ready afterwards also became a treasured ritual.
Money is the tough one. You can either sell some unwanted items on eBay, or economise. For example, DON’T buy that fancy coffee on your way to work, have the stuff in the office. Save the few quid and treat yourself to a slightly nicer lunch on Fridays. Simple, but effective and you’ll feel like you earned it.
We’ll get there people, one day at a time! 🙂
If you have any tips of your own, I’d love to hear them.
Check out my bestselling book for more information on mood and general craziness…