3 Ways to Survive the New Year Slog

         The holidays are over, which for some is a cause to celebrate and for others feels like a giant hangover.

Regardless, if you live in the Midwest, or even the tundra that is Chicago, January is not a month people get excited for, especially if you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (or better known as SAD). During the winter months, it is easy to feel sluggish, a lack of motivation, and a general sense of melancholy. In more extreme circumstances folks report feeling numb, exhausted, and feel deeply unhappy. Here are three recommendations that may help you cope with the long winter.

1. Set Intentions for the Year.

 I do not know many folks who relish in making New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I do with my clients at the end of each year is talk about intentions. Intention is the glorified word for plan. It is also a word that can elicit the concept of mindfulness. That if we set a plan or intention, we will inherently follow through with said plan.

 How does that look, you ask? It could be setting weekly intentions like “I will go to the gym three times this week and I will go on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.” Make your intentions specific and look at those intentions as a commitment to yourself and your well-being. Guide your intentions with what you value and what fills your cup so that it reaffirms the continuation of those activities.

 Long term intentions for the year are just as important. In one year, what would you like to see yourself accomplish or have? Where would you like to go? Who do you want to spend more time with? Do you have a career goal? Do you want to bulk up your retirement plan? What steps can you take to ensure these things happen week to week so that in one year you can reflect on all you did. And let’s not forget, these intentions can also be spiritually and emotionally minded. Are there boundaries you are wishing to set with certain people? Is there healing you want to do? If you aren’t in therapy, do you want to start the journey? The possibilities are endless when it comes to intention, during the first quarter of the year.

 2. Lean into Winter

 If you have heard of “Hygge” (pronounced hoo-guh), that is essentially what I am getting at. The Scandinavians, who collectively live in places that have long winters came up with this term to describe a general feeling of cozy that is meant to console or comfort in simple things. I often say to my clients lean into this season. Go get a cup of hot cocoa. Brew tea or coffee and take extra time in the morning to really relish that moment. Cozy up with blankets and a fire on a snowy night, and if you don’t have access to a fireplace, Netflix has one to throw on the TV and honestly, it’s serene. Keep holiday decorations up for longer if it makes you happy. There are many things we cannot do the rest of the year or maybe aren’t favorable (looking at you hot drinks) in the warmer months.

 Also keep in mind that there are winter markets, and that some neighborhoods in your area may still have a farmer’s market but have just relocated indoors. It can also be helpful to create a weekend ritual (especially if you have little ones) that seems novel, like getting donuts on Sundays. This all isn’t very clinical in nature but if this word has existed since the sixteenth century, there is a reason why it stuck. Somehow leaning into cozy, is better than fighting the cold.

3. Decrease the pressure

 Even though I really went in on encouraging you to set intentions to get through the slog and ramp up for the year, I also want to say that two truths can exist, and you can also ease off the gas. You can set intentions and still also say “no” or “I don’t feel like it” if that is what helps you get through the winter. Sometimes our bodies need a season to reset and recharge and winter couldn’t be a better season for that. This third point encourages you to combine point one and two. Be future minded and relish the “here and now”. Knowing when to do each is paramount when time moves slow and the days are short, yet long.

 These sessions certainly won’t cure Seasonal Affective Disorder, they are great items to work on in therapy or flesh out with your therapist. If you don’t have a therapist and are struggling during this time, it’s never too late to start your therapy journey.

 In the meantime, take care and stay warm. I am cheer-sing you on with my hot chocolate as we speak.

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