We often talk about how hard the holidays are, but January can be just as hard if not harder. If you feel like your mental health is suffering post-holidays, you're not alone. Below are four reasons why January can be difficult and coping strategies we can use to supportive ourselves not only in January, but the rest of the year as well.
Issue: Feeling like there’s nothing to look forward after the holidays are over.
There's so much build up and expectations attached to the holidays. It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, right? For most of us though, the holidays fall short of expectations. We may feel disappointed. And combine that with now the holidays are over, leaving feeling like we have nothing to look forward to in the short term. We go back to work or school, back to our regular activities, and feel like everything is less exciting.
Ways to Cope: Schedule things to look forward to.
As much as you can, schedule things to look forward to. They don't need to be big things, and take into account your individual needs and preferences to make this work best for you. If you enjoy going out for coffee for example, maybe this is a regular weekly trip to your favorite coffee shop. If you enjoy coffee, but are trying to stick with a budget, maybe this means making time to have coffee at home but really sit down and enjoy your coffee for 10 min in the morning rather than drink it on the way to work without really tasting it. If we have things in our schedule that we look forward to and enjoy, it can help support our mood.
Issue: New Years Resolution pressure.
There's a lot of pressure to buy into the "New Year, New Me" type of resolution. These goals are often unattainable and make us feel like we need to completely change to be what we're told is the "best" version of ourselves. They can also led to future mental health issues, like disordered eating triggered by a New Year's diet.
Ways to Cope: Use Intention Setting.
Intention setting can be a powerful tool. We focus on what we want more of and encourage change while acknowledging that change is not linear and we will have set backs. We can also re-evaluate our intention if needed, and build self compassion and self confidence.
Issue: Feeling less connected to family and friends.
The holidays often involve spending more time with family and friends. We might be visiting family and friends that we don't often see, and after the holidays we feel more isolated because we're not seeing them as much. Or we know that the next time we see them is going to be months because travel is involved. This can leave us feeling disconnected to those we love.
Ways to Cope: Connect with Others.
Make an effort to stay connected. This can look like setting aside time in your schedule to see people in person. Or it may be phone/video calls. Remember, the holidays might be a reason to get together more, but we don't need a reason like the holidays to stay connected. We feel better when we feel connected and supported by our loved ones, and making that a priority will help you and those you love through January and the entire year.
Issue: It's cold and dark outside.
Winter can really impact our mood. Seasonal depression impacts about 5% of us, and January is right in the middle of winter. Feelings of low mood, low energy, and not enjoying activities your typically enjoy can be just a few of the symptoms.
Ways to Cope: Therapy.
In addition to the coping strategies already listed, therapy can be very helpful. Therapy can be a place to learn coping strategies and gain support. And some additional coping strategies that can be supportive as well include things like opening your blinds to let some sunlight in if you can't get outside or even using a sun lamp might be something to invest in.
These are just four examples of why January can feel particularly hard for our mental health. But by using these coping skills and others that work for you, we can take care of our mental health this month and all year round.
*With the mention of seasonal depression and how difficult January can be for our mental health, it's important to note, if you or someone you love is having thoughts of hurting themselves, call 988 or 911. There's also the Crisis Text Line as an additional resource. This is an emergency and help is available.