January is here! The holidays are over! All the parties, family gatherings, shopping, late nights, unhealthy eating, drinking and all the things that kept the adrenaline flowing are over!
It’s the New Year, a long time before Spring. We feel ‘locked in’ because of cold, snow or perhaps even illness due to our unhealthy lifestyle during the holidays.
It's no wonder January is an emotional low month. The January blues- when people spend long hours at home - causing 'cabin fever'. Behavioral Psychologist Donna Dawson said: 'Cabin Fever is a real phenomenon that takes place during the dark winter months, particularly January.
Did you know that January 24th is on record as being the most depressing day of the year? It’s not hard to understand. The bills come in from all those generous gifts when the holiday spirit had you feeling rich.
You’d think we would learn from the mistakes of past years and be a bit gentler on ourselves.
But the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results — applies here.
'The lack of sunlight can make us feel lethargic and depressed, and the lack of exercise and the fact that we are cooped up in a stuffy, centrally-heated home can make us feel edgy, irritable and stressed.
Depression is contagious. So what do you do in an office full of party-poopers? You ignore them! Be the one to bring a positive attitude to work, classroom, home place, or wherever you happen to be.
And those New Year’s resolutions… Keep them attainable. If you’ve been out of shape for the majority of the previous year, it’s going to take the majority of the following year to get back in shape
Better than creating goal-oriented resolutions, opt for a more effective mindset based resolution. For example, instead of declaring that you will lose 15 pounds before your spring break vacation trip, shift your resolution to: “I’m going to live a healthier life style in the New Year.”
Simply put, here’s your survival guide for January. Keep things realistic; don’t catch the depression bug; think big picture while you wrestle with going back to reality; and above all, just stay positive.
Six Ways to Beat the Most Depressing Days
By Emily Main, Prevention Magazine
April may be the cruelest month due to taxes, but January seems to take the cake for being the most depressing. Post-holiday letdown turns into failed New Year's resolutions, which are exacerbated by short days, long nights, bad weather, and holiday credit card bills. This kind of low-level winter depression seems to be a seasonal fact of life. "It's very common for people to get down during long winter months," says Dawn LaFrance, PsyD, associate director of the Counseling Center at Colgate University in upstate New York. "And while January seems bad, February can be bad, too. People keep waiting for spring, and winter just keeps going."
There's a difference between a winter funk and the more severe condition, seasonal affective disorder, says LaFrance, the latter of which is characterized by clinical depression, anxiety, and changes in weight. "The difference is usually seen in the severity and intensity of symptoms," she says. "It's OK to cry, but are you crying for three days straight?" She adds that winter blues usually last a couple of days, at the end of which you can find something to be happy about or some pleasure in your life.
For anyone dealing with a simple bout of winter funk, the best coping mechanisms are simple steps like eating right, exercising, and not focusing too much on the weather outside.
#1: Try to pinpoint what is getting you down.
You may automatically assume it's the weather or the shorter days, but some of your misery may be attributable to cultural factors. "A week ago Monday was a very depressing day here in Texas because the Cowboys lost in the playoffs," says Dr. Malone. It may seem trivial, he says, but psychiatrists have written papers on the effect of sports-team losses on the cultural psyche. Or it could be as simple as those holiday bills, says LaFrance. "Stress from finances can play into that a lot," she says, "particularly with the economic problems people are having right now." Depression really depends on the individual, and once you figure out what's getting you down, you're better able to cope or improve your circumstances.
#2: Don't let your mood dictate your plans.
If you're in a funk, it's important to keep up your social contacts, says Dr. Malone. People generally make plans with friends when they're feeling good, and then cancel those plans when they feel down — which, he says, will just make you feel worse. "Of course you want to keep a balance, and you don't want to go out every night. But if you find yourself getting depressed and withdrawing from your friends, pay attention to that," he says. "Sitting in a dark house watching TV isn't good for anybody." Push yourself to keep your social obligations even if you'd rather hibernate. LaFrance, tell a friend that you need someone to help you through this time of year. Have that person check in more often, if need be, to keep your spirits up.
#3: Watch your diet.
"It's harder to eat healthy in the winter," says LaFrance, "and people eat more carbs, which just weigh them down." Carbohydrate cravings can be a symptom of the more severe seasonal affective disorder, but when you look at most of what we define as "comfort foods" — macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, lasagna, chicken and dumplings — they're pretty carb-heavy. Carbs prey upon our brain's pleasure sensors, which make them enticing. But, at the same time, they can slow you down and make you feel lethargic. Work more organic fruits and vegetables into your diet, cooking up winter greens or using frozen fruits to make a post-workout smoothie.
Find restaurants with healthy menus. "In the wintertime people eat out more — because you're stuck inside," says Dr. Malone, but with restaurants' high-fat fare, all that dining out could add up to weight gain, which will exacerbate your winter funk after you realize you've failed at that resolution to drop 30 pounds!
#4: Work out.
Not surprisingly, exercise is a great antidote to the winter blues, says Dr. Malone, but getting motivated to strap on those running shoes can be hard when it's cold out. Even a short brisk walk outside helps — or grab some cross-country skis. Or, consider going to a gym. If that is a challenge, recruit a friend to join you, or to remind you why it's important. Research has found that improving your overall outlook on life can be a better motivation to exercise than the goal of losing weight. So forget that resolution you made, and hit the gym because you know it will lift your spirits.
#5: Get more light into your life.
Light therapy is often used to treat full-blown seasonal affective disorder, and it's just as effective at getting rid of mild seasonal depression, says LaFrance. Turn on a few more lamps in your office, raise the blinds if you have a window, and try to get outside during the middle of the day when the sun is out, particularly if it's dark both when you get to work and when you leave. Failing that, begin using a full spectrum light bulb.
You may consider taking vitamin D supplement. In addition to giving you the health benefits you're missing from lack of sunlight, there's some evidence that depression is linked to vitamin D deficiencies.
#6: Don't make life-changing decisions.
While you think your winter doldrums may be due to your job, where you live, or a relationship issue, it's not a great idea to change any one of those things until you've had some time to think it over. "If you're in a funk, it's not the best time to be making abrupt changes without weighing your options," says La France. "Your problem solving may not be as clear as it normally is," she adds. Wait a month and see if you still feel the same way before making any major life changes.
These are just guidelines to get you through the ‘most depressing’ month of the year! However, they should be considered guidelines throughout the year. They will assist you in keeping your physical body, mental ideas, thoughts and emotions intact, while giving yourself time to relax, meditate and be in tune with who you are.
As we have already discussed, ‘Wellness can be achieved when the body, mind and spirit are in balance.’