There are two camps of people that get hit with January blues.
Those affected early January and those more likely to be affected end of January. Here’s why you may find yourself in either camp and 5 things that help:
It’s all about dopamine, weather, and change of pace.
Coming off the 6 week manic high of the holiday sprint filled with sugary boozy bliss (and possibly an intense end of year sales quarter), the brain is revved up and used to more dopamine and depletion than normal. It’s largely in survival mode, distracted by purpose and hustle.
Holiday travel, parties to attend, cards to put out, deals to close, events to host, presents to wrap, and booze to cheers elevates brain reward chemicals and stress hormones for an inevitable crash.
Come January, the weather has been cold and Vitamin D deficient for almost 2 months, but the time sensitive distractions have now waned. Overnight, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ celebrations turn to ‘New Year, New You’ extreme discipline- but the weather is still uninspiring and cold.
Dance on tables New Years night, hit the ground running (literally) New Year’s day. It’s quite the bipolar turn around. Consequently, some of us struggle with this brain chemistry pivot.
End of January
If your industry conference schedule includes the JP Morgan conference in SF, CES in Vegas, or DAVOS in Switzerland, you likely won’t feel the dopamine pull back until late January as you’re still in the chaotic throws of non stop happy hours and needing to be ‘ON.’
No matter when the gray fog of January hits with its judgy drill sergeant sidekick, you’re not alone, and these can help:
Pick a 2 week buffer
Whenever your sprint is scheduled to slow, pencil in 1 week of no social obligations to catch your breath and re-acclimate.
Organize the office, plan your quarter, look at exercise class schedules, and get more sleep. If you’re an over achiever, possibly dip your toes in a mild exercise and meditation attempt and slow the recent fun crutches the body has gotten used to imbibing (sugar & booze).
2. keep self compassion top of mind
Think of the first 2 weeks of your New Year as a detox, slow down period. Add in more veggies, stretch, take a moment to reflect on what you did right last year. Lots of kudos, celebration, and gratitude for the blessings and accomplishments. Chocolate chip cookies & wine can still be on the menu as your body adjusts but more veggies take center stage.
Hold space for the brain to withdraw from the manic pace it’s grown accustomed. It’s a good time to consider more sleep, massages, bone broth, and setting up the body for a detox or fast - just not abruptly.
Doubling the lemon water gets bonus points.
This is not the time for a slammed to do list or unrealistic, punishing fitness goals. It’s cold outside, the body is in hibernation mode, and it’s dry. An hour involving the jacuzzi/sauna with some stretching/dancing, ending with a blanket by the fire is perfect.
No need to dust off the running shoes quite yet if they’ve been sleeping for 2 months. Re-stabilize your core and joints and stretch before hitting the sprints.
3. Double the Vitamin D & B and consider happy lights.
If you struggle during the winter with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), head to vitamin D -ASAP. I take medical grade 50,000 IU of Vitamin D per week during the winter. You’ll notice more tanning beds in Seattle and Portland - and there’s a reason. They also sell bright happy lights for your desk or bedside table to mimic warmer months.
With the downshift in daylight and sunshine, SAD symptoms may require more fun cardio movement for endorphins, long hugs with friends for oxytocin, and gratitude lists for perspective to keep happy chemicals flowing
4. Have the reboot plan -and permission slip for it- ready.
When Dopamine pulls back and immediate purpose isn’t forcing us to show up, downshifting to a new pace can be literally painful. Knowing it’s coming helps, but having the permission slip in your pocket may be necessary.
Something like, “Even though this feels weird and lacks the exuberance of the holiday grind, this is the right way to spend my time and sets me up for a happy year and healthy mind/body. I have permission to transition.”
Anyone with early trauma, anxiety, depression, or addiction tendencies will especially benefit from this external permission reminding the brain it’s ok to rest and recalibrate as it inevitably searches for stimulation.
5. Keep perspective
People really don’t expect much of each other during January and even February. However you spend it is the right way. No one is keeping track of whether you’re perfect with your resolutions or ‘hit the ground running’ in “your best year yet.”
In fact many are right there with you recalibrating. Dry January, detox, and Whole30 attempts often affect social schedules. SAD affects many moods and energy levels. People disappear to focus on work or escape to snowy destinations to ski.
It’s the perfect time to take care of you and celebrate what’s already been accomplished.