Here we are in the post-holiday pall. While the holidays are difficult for those who have experienced a loss of any kind, they are stressful to some degree for all of us. We eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and in many cases have “too much” family or possibly, too little. And while there a kind of relief to having the holidays behind us, the let-down presents its’ own challenges.
Even if your holidays were great-the results of those excesses now impact fully. There is the influx of bills, the shorter days, the extra pounds accumulated from the holiday goodies, the clean-up and putting away of holiday décor and the return to routine. In the Northeast, these changes are accompanied by inclement weather- the dropping temperatures, the snow and the ice. Plus, cold and flu season grips us.
Some folks anticipate this January “crash” and plan a trip to warmer climates. “Snow birds” say “so long” to their children and grandchildren and retreat in droves to warmers climates. College students plan for spring break and say “so long” to their parents.
For those not traveling or of snow bird status, January heralds the beginning of the low slow slough to spring. With the extra bills, extra pounds and dropping temperatures, we are hunkering down, sometimes isolating and sluggish.
The inactivity and decreased socialization can result in too much time in our heads where some our most negative thoughts seem to be revived. In our inertia, anxiety and depression can begin to gripe us, along with feeling overwhelmed. It can be a slippery slope to despair.
Despair is what we can happen when feelings of hopelessness* nudge out feelings of hope. And in those moments, thoughts can turn dark. It is critical to remember that everything keeps changing all the time. The simple awareness that in just three short months, warm weather and long days will return provides evidence of this phenomenon. There is change in our seasons, and change within ourselves.
Sometimes thinking of other dark times in your life and how you found light again, can help you find a road map as you navigate your way through these difficult times. Those past experiences can move you forward with resolve and so can remembering that your future self will know more than your present self. With each difficult period, there is the triumph of learning something new. I recently heard this quote:
Have respect for your future self who will know things you do not yet know
This made me think back to my adolescent self who flunked an algebra test and was devastated, or later in high school, my first broken heart, and I am reminded how true this quote is. At that age, I could not imagine ever feeling differently and then strangely, I did. My “today self” smiles at my “young self”.
Even decades later, I still, at times, need to remember that difficult and painful feelings change and heal. Certainly there have been more painful and challenging times than a flunked algebra test or a high school romance gone awry, and it can be a challenge to be mindful that I got through those as well. It is a struggle in moments of despair; we forget about our past self, who had so much to learn, but we also don’t consider our future self, who has much to teach us.
Hang in there. Have patience. Your future self will know things you can’t yet imagine. Maybe if we anticipated the arrival of our future self with the same anticipation we approach the holidays then we can avoid the January slump. Replace despair with wonder and curiosity. There are gifts of wisdom waiting to be discovered in our wiser, future selves.
*If you experience feelings of hopelessness, feel as if your concentration, interest or attention span is diminished or have racing thoughts, any of these can be depression; especially if these symptoms are unrelenting and seem to be increasing in intensity. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Ask for help from counselor, your doctor, or even a friend. If you have thoughts of suicide, get help from a professional immediately. Don’t let depression ruin your life.
© 2015 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She has a special interest in working with people dealing with life transitions. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce is available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. She gets through winter in heavy sweaters and warm socks, devouring flower catalogs and making sure the birds are feed.