Harpy Hacks: 10 Ways to Banish the January Blues
By Alys Marshall
We're all feeling a bit like this droopy dog right now. Our residual hangovers and food comas are lingering, friends and relatives head home and the return to work hits you like a ton of dicks. Most of us are pretty deflated- all we really want to do is curl up in bed to watch Friends (which is FINALLY on UK Netflix, FYI) but instead we’re expected to put on clothes that aren’t pyjamas and trudge through the drizzle to reality.
The January blues are felt worldwide, especially by those who suffer from S.A.D, but research has found that depression and low mood are more self-reported in January than at any other time of year.  In light of this, we at Harpy HQ are making an extra effort to be kind to ourselves this month, so we thought we’d compile a list of a few ways that you can do the same:
1) Remember that resolutions are entirely optional. Lots of us find it motivating to set goals for the year; it’s a fresh start and the desire to self-improve is contagious. But these goals can often end up resembling a set of rules, like ‘only drinking at weekends’, ‘going to the gym three times a week’ or ‘reading 4 books every month’. Unless you are extremely self-disciplined, resolutions inevitably lead to feelings of inadequacy when you slip up. It is REALLY HARD to live within the confines of rules like this, so don’t feel compelled to take part in the ‘new year, new me’ madness.
2) IGNORE the onslaught of bullshit diet culture that comes with the New Year. On Boxing Day, I got an email from Waterstones instructing me to ‘banish away all those indulgences’ with their range of diet and exercise manuals. Then ASOS hopped on the bandwagon with a message about their reduced selection of active wear. All of this encourages retrospective food guilt and self-inflicted food restrictions. If working out and dieting genuinely makes you happy then COOL, you do you- but for lots of people it causes anxiety around eating and complicates body image. Eat whatever makes you feel good, whenever it makes you feel good, eschew all obligation to exercise and try to ignore the fatphobic marketing which is particularly prevalent at this time of year.
3) Give yourself time to recover. We may call the Christmas and New Year ‘holidays’, but they usually involve travelling across country to see family, overindulging and cramming in as many social arrangements as possible in the space of a week. Allow yourself some time to relax and decompress before you plough back into work. You probably won’t go from zero to productive in one day and that’s FINE.
4) Refresh your space. Taking down your Christmas decorations only adds to the January misery- everything looks a bit sad when it’s not draped in tinsel and twinkly lights. This is a good excuse to have a little reshuffle or clear out; put up a different poster/print, light a scented candle and get rid of the Christmas debris. Making small changes will feel like an achievement and might help to shake you out of your holiday stupor. Hygge your hearts out, Harpies!
5) Take refuge in a hobby. If you’re suffering from holiday lethargy, doing something creative or physical is a good way to ease yourself back into productivity. This doesn’t have to mean launching an Etsy store for your papier-mâché feminist merch- although we’d definitely be into that. It could be learning to cook something new, or joining the loveable and completely un-scary yoga guru Adrienne for her 30 Day TRUE Yoga Journey. (If you’re interested in the latter- you can do this for free via her YouTube channel).
6) Re-establish your routine. After a week or two of late nights, lie-ins and boozy afternoons, getting out of that duvet burrito for work seems as impossible as giving up actual burritos. If you try to get to bed a little earlier you may feel more rested, even if you don’t sleep straight away. It’s also worth considering cutting down on the caffeine in the afternoons or limiting your screen time, as both of these might be making it harder for you to drift off. The days are finally getting longer again, and once you get back into your regular sleep pattern the prospect of facing the working day won’t seem so miserable.
7) Follow the light! You know that blissful feeling when you stand in a warm sunlit spot and close your eyes to bask in it? That’s because sunshine is good for you. Many of us find that being outside can give us energy and help us to get a deeper sleep, but according to recent NHS advice, Vitamin D can help to battle depression or low mood, strengthen your bones, lower the risk of heart disease and even some types of cancer. At this time of year sunshine is a little harder to come by- but try and get outside on those clear crisp days, even if it’s only for a brisk walk to replenish the chocolate.
8) Organisation is key. I’ve always thought that there is something unusually satisfying about writing down your commitments by hand. This year, instead of entering dates into your teeny iPhone calendar- try returning to a paper diary, or buying a calendar too. I find that in having the months physically laid out for me I gain a clearer sense of my availability. A diary never runs out of battery, and stationary shopping can be pretty darn soothing.
9) Look back at your achievements. It’s easy to get swept up in your shortcomings, rake over the resolutions you didn’t keep last year or feel overwhelmed by everything on your to-do list. Realistically, you’ve made it through one of the most bizarre years; a year of Trump, Weinstein, #MeToo and #NotAllMen (gross). So pat yourself on the back! Remember the small hurdles you overcame or the bigger challenges you faced, and be proud of them.
10) Persevere! You got through January in every other year of your life so far, and you’ll get through this one too. Read/watch/listen to your favourite things, vent to your friends and practice some good self-care. February will be here soon with a little more natural light.
Image sourced via @RelatableQuote