The January blues
The decorations are stored once again, the cards taken down, the pine needles swept away... though some may linger, embedded in carpet, occasionally prickling feet. January, when the party is over, can be a difficult time with the third Monday having been designated some years ago as 'Blue Monday'. The bills start to arrive and accounting for the recent (and perhaps, not so recent) past might well feel difficult.
There is perhaps a sense of accounting in a deeper way. The balance sheet of how we might see and value ourselves, and feel others might see and value us, could appear under greater scrutiny at this time of the year. This might well feel punishing and contribute to the January Blues. If there is a sense of disappointed expectation around a potential fresh start, the making of New Year’s resolutions with all that can surround not hitting the goal, may well create ideal conditions for feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or sad.
Much is written and broadcast about how to achieve the perfect holiday season - the perfect meal, the perfect selection of presents wrapped and ready, the perfect group of friends and family with whom to share this. Much can feel invested in ensuring the happiness of others around this. And there is also much on the perfect way to fall short - how impossible it could feel to win at this game! And with the ever-present intrusion of social media, it might also feel impossible to escape the comparisons between a less than ideal (though perhaps realistic) reality and a glossy, unfeasibly perfect reflection of what 'ought' to be achieved. Alternatively, it could be that the holidays were wonderful, where family and friends came together. It might have been a time full of love and of being with each other in a richly close way that is full of meaning. And come January, with those special people scattered once more and that closeness replaced by a more mundane, casual connectivity, how easy it might be to feel empty in comparison and... blue.
A sense of day-to-day fragility experienced in an on-going way, could generate other expectations around the holidays. Perhaps they are a distraction from anxiety or discomfort - a time to 'forget' about those feelings we’d much rather weren’t there, a time where festivity isn’t just offered, it is also almost demanded of us. Perhaps they are an excuse to relieve these feelings by (over) spending money, buying presents, treating oneself and others. Perhaps they are a time where drinking and eating too much are not just excused, but also almost enforced. And yet, lurking behind this might well be the sense that it is also a way of adapting behaviour, to cope with and manage unhappiness or dissatisfaction or fear or frustration. A sense that all isn’t as it could be.
Might the January Blues have a deeper meaning? Might they have a message around longer term issues of emotional well-being and deeply-felt, perhaps unacknowledged, needs and concerns? Have they tipped from being a dull time of the year when paying bills has become the priority, to being something else, something more? Might they be signalling that there could be value and benefit in exploring what is going on? How blue is blue, enough to believe that being accompanied in this blueness might feel supportive and helpful? If that question resonates, then perhaps the very personal choice around seeking help might be worth looking at more closely.
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About Merri Mayers
Merri Mayers, an MBACP registered counsellor, works near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Merri is an integrative therapist employing the most effective aspects of person centred, gestalt, psychodynamic, systemic and TA models. She works relationally, understanding that how we engage with others can illuminate how we see and feel about ourselves.