Real Talk: How To Survive The January Blues

Guys, I can’t believe it’s only the 22nd of January. We’re more than a week out of February. Isn’t that bananas? Why did September go by so fast? And why is January the month equivalent of the line-up to return something at The Bay when you have 20 minutes for lunch and you’ve been holding the door open for 18 of those 20 minutes, and you know you will not make it back in time for whatever-it-is-you’re-about-to-be-45-minutes late for. Why, I ask?

So behold: more survival tips. Because that’s all I have to give right now. Heaven help us everyone.

1. Tell someone if you’re feeling terrible
This January feels terrible. Right? This January feels long and awful and isolating and tragic in almost every way. And it’s not even like one specific thing has happened. Or maybe it has! I don’t know! But look: everything feels bad, and it’s easy to blame January because even though I don’t hate winter in a general sense, I hate January so much. I hate this January so much.

And when you’re in that headspace, it can be super easy to blame yourself or to be like, “No, it’s just me, I’m overreacting.” But nope, stop it. Tell your pals you’re having a time. Tell your fam. Tell your mom. (I told my Mom the other night how I felt like a sentient sack of potatoes and she was like, “You know I can come over and that’s fine by me, right?” So I invited her over immediately.) (I also told my Dad, and he brought me donuts.) You’re not a martyr by going it alone, you’re not a burden on anyone if you need someone to offer emotional and mental support. You’re no less of a reasonable grown-up. Humans need help! Ask for some!

2. Create a false sense of control by buying a plant or baking bread or something small
This sounds like the worst advice in the world, so let me just say this: sometimes, I need to pretend I can control everything, so I choose the smallest thing, and control that because I know I am in control of nothing. Tonight I might bake some bread. On Saturday, I was feeling drained and exhausted so I bought a cactus. (I can’t kill a cactus. I know this because I forgot to water a succulent for actual months and it’s still alive.) I know these are temporary solutions to bigger things, but sometimes when there is too much going on, just embrace those temporary solutions. At least until you return to shore.

3. Speaking of returning to shore: therapy is great!
A fun fact about me is that I saw a therapist during high school and then up until recently for about five years. And you know what? It helped! Talking to someone who didn’t know me and owed me nothing gave me the boost I needed to come to some pretty big revelations or learn how to take care of myself better. And none of my therapists solved my problems, they just made me look at my own habits and behaviours and come to my own conclusions. Which is sometimes all you need! (Also: if you’re in Canada, and you don’t have coverage (hello!), you can talk to your family doctor who can refer you to someone. At least that’s how I rolled.)

4. Acknowledge that you feel bad
I know we just talked about you telling people when you’re in the bell jar, but look: admitting it to yourself matters, too. The other night I was like, “Why do I feel like actual garbage?” and then, re-watching something I’ve seen a million times before, I got super emotional and was like, “Oh, you’re tired and burned out and completely exhausted!” And then I got to come up with a plan. And the thing about Terrible January is that you need an escape plan. Otherwise you will feel like you’re drowning in sand.

5. Come up with a plan!
I love plans! I love plans so much! I love to-do lists and looking at something and thinking “I can solve this!” But not everyone’s plans look the same. Some of you might love lists, others might have an iCal. I don’t care. You map out your escape. You fill your time with events and activities that bring you joy, you write down what you need to do and then you do it, and then you carve out some time for you. Refill that pool. Read books. Watch a movie. Give yourself enough breathing space where you can actually stand up and look outward and maneuver. Sometimes that’s 20 minutes. Other times it’s a week of vacation. But put it into your plan: you do this, that, the other, and then you leave enough space with which to take a hot second and decompress. We are useless if we just want to lay down and cry all the time. Not to work or to other people, but to ourselves. And January doesn’t get the privilege of doing that to us, thank you.


Tags: Anne T. Donahue

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