Embracing the Seasons: Beating the January Blues
The fact that I am even writing that as the header to this blog post shows how far I have come over the past few months! In the past I have despised January, struggled with the dark days and heavy, never-ending leaden skies. I think I would go so far as to say this is the first year I have even remotely enjoyed January.
You see for years, I suffered from SAD, for many of those years I didn’t realise that there was a "name” for the way I was feeling and even when eventually I figured out what was causing my low moods, whilst it was a comfort to know it was “normal” and that I wasn’t alone, I found it very difficult to shake those winter blues off. I invested in a Lumie light, forced myself to spend my weekends in the garden or on the allotment, I exercised and ate well! I did it all, which I am sure has helped to keep me floating in the past but those dark days were always present in my mind.
So what’s different this January? In many ways, it had the potential to be the worst January on record for me! Technically unemployed and with no income stream (yet) plus spending a lot of time alone, it could have been the most anxiety inducing month I’ve ever had. But instead of letting those thing engulf me I have given myself the permission to take it super slow, to enjoy this time of restoration and to take the foot of the pressure pedal.
And its worked, each morning I wake feeling OK, I don’t struggle to get out of bed, my mood is on average good (bar the odd crazy day normally related to my cycle) and I remain motivated.
I wrote an article for Creative Countryside recently all about embracing Winter and recognising that just as with nature we need our own time to reset, to give our bodies and our minds a break and to slow right down. I’m writing this sitting next to a fire, with a tumbler of red wine and my slippers on, its 5pm on a Friday, I’ll be in bed by 9 and I’m OK with that!
So what’s changed? I can identify a few things that I know for sure have helped me shift out of my normal winter mood pattern, many of these things have only been possible because I no longer need to travel to work. I know how challenging it is to find those spare moments in the day but I wanted to share the step changes I have made in the hope it might inspire you to do the same:
I remember gazing out the window of my office watching the seasons pass me by and wishing I could be out in woodlands that surrounded the office. Now that I am at home working, I have made a conscious effort to get outside everyday no matter the weather, I walk the dogs, I cycle my boys to school and nursery, I enjoy a cup of tea in the garden and tend to the green shoots of seedlings in my greenhouse. I take these micro breaks throughout the day to keep my mind fresh and to ensure I maximise my vitamin D intake.
Eat the rainbow and more
We have never really eaten a lot of meat, but recently we have been working even harder to reduce our meat intake. We buy one organic free range chicken a week and try to squeeze as many meals out of it as we can: curries, a roast, soups and bone broth (which if you’re a meat eater is an absolute must have for winter health). For the rest of our meals we are eating a wider range of fruit and vegetables thanks to our Riverford box which is in many ways forcing us to change our meals and stops us getting stuck in the rut of rotating meals. Experimentation in all realms is good and I firmly believe in eating a wide variety of foods for brain and body health (no science here just a personal belief).
With more time, comes the ability to get stuff done (when the mood takes you!) and for the first time in a long while I am beginning to feel on top of things. Small tasks that I have put off for an age because my brain couldn’t cope, have been completed and “the list” is slowly diminishing. It feels like the house is slowly coming together and we are getting ready to list it on air B&B in anticipation of our travelling adventures, something we have dreamed about forever and now finally pushing forward with. I feel less rushed, less frantic and slightly less overwhelmed and my mind is thankful.
Change in mindset
I used to be one of those people that couldn’t stop. Ask Ed and he will tell you how horribly frustrating it was. Things got worse as Botanical Tales developed, because my only free time was in the evenings and weekends so I rarely got a break, apart from when at my yoga studio. I said no to social invitations because I just had no headspace or time to be with other people and I know how sad that is to even be saying that. This January I have stopped, I’ve sat down and watched movies with Ed and not looked at my phone once, I’ve spent evenings colouring in books and practicing my drawing and I’ve sat with a cup of tea staring out the window. At times I had to actively force myself to slow down (I have a block on my phone, stopping me from looking at any apps for 6 hours of the day) but it has been so worth it.
I guess you could say I have embraced the slowness of January, mirroring what is going on in nature with my own behaviour. The reality is I probably won’t have another January like this, I certainly hope to be working again soon whether that be through Botanical Tales or freelancing so I want to enjoy this gift of time. To make the most of the space I have and to be gentle with myself.
So here’s to celebrating January and all it brings with it, from the long dark evenings spent with the family to the heavy skies of a rainy day giving us all the excuses to stay inside! I wont fight it anymore, with each day comes lengthening light and more green shoots, both outside and in.