Although Christmas is penned as being 'the most wonderful time of the year', it can also be an incredibly stressful one, and can leave us feeling exhausted and burned out over the holidays. The festive season is supposed to be a relaxing one, but it can often make us feel the complete opposite.
This means many of us are returning to the stresses and problems of work without the backup of a restful week or two behind us, and the January dread will hit hard for many on the night before work.
Heading back to work in this mindset means we’re almost set up for failure before we ever begin, leaving us more susceptible to burnout than ever before – especially with that toxic January ‘New Year New Me’ culture rearing its head again this year.
There are ways to cultivate and restful and enjoyable January to chase away its traditional blues. It’s all about how you approach the month traditionally associated with over-productivity, abstaining from our favourite foods and implementing impossible routines and goals.
Try something new
It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut, living the same day over and over. The return to work and normal life after Christmas is something we dread and the monotony of January when half our friends aren’t drinking and the other half are trying to save money can be a killer.
When there aren’t other distractions around or things to look forward to, work can quickly become our sole focus, making burn out an all-too present threat. Making January a fun month is all about mindset, so try some new things, or things you’ve always wanted to do this month! Try a new restaurant or take out if you’re not comfortable eating out and order dishes you’ve never heard of. Take a day trip somewhere new on the weekend and completely lose yourself somewhere new for a day. Visit a local museum or art gallery you’ve always wanted to go to and learn as much as you can about it – soak up the new experiences!
No, none of this toxic ‘New Year, New me’ stuff – more of a ‘be gentle and nurturing to yourself. You are the best investment you can make, so spend time making sure you’re in the best place, mentally and physically and even in terms of your relationships, that you can be.
Date yourself, pamper yourself, make your time off really count and really mean something. Set yourself up well by making yourself a beautiful meal – all 3 courses if you like! Clear out your space and de-clutter anything you don’t need or is taking up unnecessary space – again, whether that’s physically or mentally. Take time to assess your needs – and your wants – and indulge in them.
Invest in your health
Once more, mental and physical. Around January there’s huge pressure to ‘hit the gym’, ‘reach your goals’, start working on your summer bod’ – and when we get caught up in that feeling of new beginnings, it’s too easy to confuse self-care for toxic diet and exercise culture.
Instead of exercising for that beach bod, exercise in a way that’s fun for you, that brings you joy, whether that’s a Zumba class or boxercise or even something as simple as going for a bike ride in the nearby park and seeing some nature, combining both physical and mental health. Go for a hike somewhere beautiful and soak up the views, the fresh air, the feeling of achievement. Investing in your health is not just hitting up the January sales for gym gear.
Too often, January gets a bit of a bad wrap. Everyone wants to be responsible, and imagine this great reset in their lives after the holidays – no drinking, no ‘bad’ food, save money by cutting down on socialising and going places – and as we all know, those ‘resolutions’ last less than a couple of weeks for most of us.
But January doesn’t have to be this scary, responsible, boring month – it can be a whatever you want it to be. There is no moral superiority in having a ‘good month’ – ‘good’ depends on your perspective. So allow yourself to have fun, have friends over and have a games night, or go out for food, or organise a day out – and don’t feel guilty for not having a ‘productive’ or ‘responsible’ January – have fun is responsible too.
Allow yourself to relax in an unproductive way
Again, with the motivation and productivity. This kind of mindset that even our relaxing activities should be productive is complete nonsense. Yoga? Writing or creating for your side project? Down time should be down time – it doesn’t have to produce something at the end of it to justify it.
Sink into a really good book and completely lose yourself in that world. Take up a creative hobby as an outlet – and just for fun – you don’t have to be Picasso or the next Margaret Atwood at the end of it. Reach out to friends and family you haven’t caught up with in a while and socially recharge. Or socially detox and flake out in front of your favourite comfort sitcom. There is no rule saying one must be motivated and productive at all times – let yourself unwind this January – completely.