Well, we survived January and most of February, so now we should have banished the New Year blues. Or did we? Have we? Well, this year has been very different hasn’t it? And many of us have not been able to do the things we would normally do to overcome those January Blues - so we are perhaps taking our feelings into February and maybe even further too.
The January blues, historically, are caused by the build up to Christmas being hectic and the festive season being all parties, presents and people, so the period after this becomes a bit of a let-down, as everything draws to a close and we go back to ‘normal’. But that didn’t happen this year, so I’m guessing that our January (and February) blues, and the low emotions associated with them, are more to do with a sense of loss, even grief at what we have not had this year, mixed with the sense of a ‘lack of hope’ and also frustration, boredom or loneliness. And that is fair - most of us are struggling on some level.
We haven’t really been able to do the things we might have been advised to do to combat the blues in pre lockdown times, this year. You know, the advice you will have heard before: Make New Year’s Resolutions - Change old habits - but what can we change in such limiting times? Plan a holiday - well that‘s not even certain yet.
As humans, we are a social species and we have a built-in need to be loved, to belong and to be part of society. But we’ve had to deny ourselves this. And that can be hard. As individuals most of us like routine and we tend to shy away from change. We like the safety and comfort in the things we know. But even that has been upturned this year. It’s almost as if we are having to be in some sort of hibernation, socially and emotionally, although - for some of us - we still have to work, albeit in very different circumstances, maybe working from home, or being isolated form others, sitting or working further apart. So, there is confusion and dichotomy. And we no longer really know the rules.
So how can we cope?
Well, I believe we can, because as human beings we are resilient too.
Here are my top ten tips for banishing the blues, and they may not be the normal tips, but they work for me:
1. Stay connected - Remember you are not alone - Keep in touch, in whatever way you can. Talk to friends and family. Phone calls, video calls - have a family zoom session or get together for a drink and a chat with friends on a group video call, with a glass of wine, a G&T or whatever takes your fancy. Keep it light and positive. But also, don’t be afraid to talk to someone outside your family or friends circle too - Join an online group of like-minded people to chat and share with or just to read others’ thoughts or experiences. Steer clear of negative comments and chat or too much depressing news. Who needs it?! But if you need to let off steam or share your problems and find the solutions, then look for a coach, therapist or counsellor. It is never a sign of weakness to ask for help, but it is actually a sign of strength. We all need help from time to time and I truly believe you already have everything you need inside yourself. You may just need help in knowing where to look.
2. Reflect - look back over past times and achievements - get out the old photos - good times have been had, and they will happen again. Don’t look at what you are missing - look at what you have enjoyed. Be positive. Have a laugh. Think through good memories, maybe even write them down to remind yourself, or to share with others. You could make a memory box or album. I do this with children, but I also gain endless pleasure in clearing out the clutter from my cupboards and drawers, discovering things I’d forgotten I had, or just looking through my box of saved special items. A lovely feeling!
3. Blow away the cobwebs - get some fresh air. Whilst we are still supposed to be staying safe at home as much as possible at the moment, we all need stimulation and fresh air. Go for a walk, get out into the garden if you have one, whenever you can. Sunshine and fresh air helps our bodies to produce vitamin D and it brings such good feelings too, so use the time it is here to get out in it. Do some exercise. Anything at all is good, whether it be inside or out. Try mindfulness or some deep breathing to enhance your mood or calm you down.
4. Keep busy - But make time for you. Have a routine and get your chores or priorities out of the way first then take time to do something you enjoy. Completing the things you have to do first allows you to relax, knowing you have taken care of that which is necessary. Now try to fill your day with things you choose to do, rather than those you feel obliged to do. Keeping busy and your mind occupied means you can’t spend time dwelling on things that worry you or the things you can’t control.
5. Plan something to look forward to. And no, it doesn’t have to be a holiday, but equally, it could be, for when everything settles, and things pass. We all need something to look forward to, so get planning a few small things, maybe something to look forward to at the end of the day, the end of the week, or that holiday that will come - whenever. You don’t need to book it. Just plan it and savour the thought. But do plan and book some things so you do have something in the calendar - that zoom call or chat with a friend, a bath with candles, or a hot chocolate or G & T at the end of the day. And smile when you think about them and look forward to them.
6. Try a new or different hobby - who knows it could be a fresh start and you might be surprised at how you enjoy it. Learning or finding out about something new is exciting, it keeps us alive and challenges us. It fills our mind, which can mean we spend less time feeling in a rut, bored or depressed. There are plenty of things you can do on your own or with your family or bubble. If you like walking, why not join the Ramblers Association Pathwatch Scheme, to help ensure paths are accessible for walkers. Get a map of paths and bridleways near you and go and explore, then report any path problems through the Pathways scheme to help keep our countryside accessible to all. If you prefer to do something at home just search the internet for hobbies or trends and find something that takes your fancy. Or sign up for one of the many online courses.
7. Healthy eating can help - but also treat yourself - It has been proven that some things that occur naturally in foods change the way your brain releases chemicals that act either as stimulants or can help improve your mood. Fruits, vegetables and whole foods, dark chocolate and turmeric are all good for you. Foods the are full of good bacteria are great for gut heath and improve the bodies stress tolerance, so eat foods such as live yoghurt, kimchee, and kafir. Snacking on nuts and seeds does help the body to feel happier, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and even peanuts help satisfy hunger but also provide lots of health benefits and can help reduce depression and anxiety. Milk based products have a feel-good factor too, as they release endorphins to the brain. Even ice cream! Blow the diet and have a hot chocolate or a tub of your favourite ice cream every now and again. Don’t feel guilty. Life is too short and time too precious. Forgive yourself.
8. Believe there is light at the end of the tunnel
Remind yourself that you have got through countless things in your lifetime. All of them felt like a huge mountain to climb at the time. But you did it. You made it. And you will do it again. Remember - the mountain is always much larger when you are standing at the foot of it. None of us can climb a flight of stairs in one leap, we need to take it one step at a time. And when we are there at the top it seemed like it was easy. The mountain always looks much smaller when we have conquered it and the view from the top is usually much better. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
9. Become comfortable in your own skin - enjoy being you. Try to recognise your strengths and the things you are good at and do more of them. Don’t pick yourself up on the things you can’t do! Try to see the best in yourself and let go of some of those limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, may be keeping you trapped in your own reality tunnel and in your present emotional state. We can all break out - we just need to know how. A therapist or coach can help you do that.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others. They are not you. We are all unique. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. You are beautiful just as you are. Think of someone who loves you and imagine what positive things they would say about you. Don’t compare yourself to others - think about your attributes and achievements and compare yourself to who you used to be. Look at how far you have come. Recognise and be proud of everything you have done and who you have become. That is the most important thing you can do for you.