Santa has left the building.
The stockings, pilfered of all the "good" candy, are limp, lifeless shapes, with only some hard lemon drops and a peanut husk or two left in the toe. The tree, if you've not gotten the energy up to take it down, is not a cheery reminder of the season, but rather a blinking, shedding testament to your lack of ambition.
Yep, the happiest time of the year has given way to the January blahs.
I spend the entire first month of the calendar year psyching myself up to survive the cold, the dark, and the snow. By February the days have lengthened, and March, with its lion and lamb split personality is a lively harbinger of spring.
But January.... that's just a month to soldier through in my book.
I'm afraid our balmy winter thus far has lulled me into a sense of complacency. I complain if the temperature dips below 32 degrees for a high. How quickly we forget those days where the temperature doesn't rise above 0! I have a feeling, however, that Mother Nature has a few surprises for us in January. And, I'm afraid they won't be pleasant ones.
January is a month made for indoor pursuits.
I've got shoe boxes filled with photos that need to be sorted. My son's upcoming graduation is a perfect prod to get those pictures in order, scanned, and into neat, professional-looking books. The dark evenings of January are a perfect time for that.
January is a month for stews. Beefy, hearty stews, with plenty of chunks of vegetables and rich gravy. Stews involve pre-planning, however, and my mind is a bit like a car with cold oil, it moves more slowly in the cold. I invariably forget some vital ingredient - like potatoes - and can't get the get-up-and-go to get in the car to pick up the needed tubers.
While for me, the January blahs are just that - "blahs," for some it's more serious. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. The disorder saps its victims energy and makes them moody and in a funk. Some of the lifestyle changes recommended by the folks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (They are in Minnesota, they KNOW about winter!) can help all of us make it through the cold January days and survive until spring!
* Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
*Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help -- especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
*Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.