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January isn’t the month that generally springs to mind when you think about feeling sparkly and fabulous is it? On January 1st, we force ourselves to feel better, be better, work harder, spend less and eat less – only to feel crappy by the middle of the month.
January 21st, is supposedly the unhappiest day of the year, not only because people get their December credit card bills but, also because the enthusiasm you had on the 1st of the month will likely plummet. Added to that, the cold grey days of winter will feel like they’re dragging on and the cold salads will no longer be hitting the spot.
The January blues are a real thing for many women – low moods, low energy, bouts of depression, and coughs and colds aplenty. But why?
Well, here’s two of the reasons:
December probably involved over-spending, over-eating, over-drinking and overexerting yourself. This means that come January, both your mood and energy will take a hit. It’s like when you see a toddler at a party overdosing on sugar and you know, at some point, the uncontrollable laughing, dancing and running about will become a meltdown. That’s kinda what happens to you!
In the past month, you’ve probably been running on adrenaline (as well as mince pies and Baileys) and pushed your body to its limits with socialising, cooking, shopping and juggling family dynamics. So, when the parties are over and normal life resumes, most women experience an almighty adrenaline crash – usually showing up as exhaustion and low moods. This is because your stress hormones were sent into overdrive for a whole month and you were likely having lots of inflammatory sweet, fatty, processed foods, drinks and alcohol. Too much stress and inflammation causes low energy, low moods and it weakens your immune system (hence the coughs, colds and other things that you can pick up at this time of year). How you feel in your body and mind each month is often a direct result of what you did the previous month, so if you overdid things in December, then January is when you’ll get your version of the exhausted toddler meltdown.
2.You don’t “do” January like you should.
If you hadn’t noticed, it’s still winter. In fact, it’s the middle of winter. When your mind conjures up someone surviving in the middle of winter, what do you think of? Probably someone wearing lots of snuggly clothes, eating warm foods and being holed up in a cave (or if you prefer, a house). And you’d be right. That is the best way to survive (mentally and physically) in the middle of winter. Your body is deeply connected to nature and wants to slow everything down and ‘hibernate’ because the shorter, darker days mean you’ll naturally have less energy and need more sleep. It’s not because you’re ill or lazy (although you may feel both this month), YOU’RE MEANT TO BE RESTING AND SLEEPING MORE in January, so it’s no coincidence your body wants to do exactly that.
Last month, you likely ignored the callings of winter and took it up a few notches instead of down. This month (when your body needs to recover from last month), you’re telling it to get up, do more, be more and embrace the ‘New Year’ (although the true new year is the start of Spring btw). I’m all for us feeling healthier and happier and doing things to get us there but, this overly forced “do, do, do” and “try, try, try” in January just doesn’t fit with how best to work with your female body and the seasons. It’s the difference between a plane flying against the wind (trying to get out and establish lots of new habits/routines in the cold, dark, hibernation season of January) OR a plane flying WITH the wind (resting more and planning to do more when Spring starts, as you’ll naturally have more energy, time and daylight).
So, with those two points in mind, here’s my 7 sparkly tips to help you feel less crappy this January:
As a woman, how you feel, how you look, your energy, appetite, everything, all depends on where you are hormonally. You have 4 distinct phases that you go through in your 28 day (or thereabouts) cycle and, depending on which phase you’re in, you’ll feel sociable or not; have increased or decreased energy; need more food or less; feel more resilient and want to start a new exercise regime/business or want to do nothing and stay under the covers.
Men have a 24-hour hormonal cycle. Quite often, those diet and exercise programmes we see that encourage a specific calorific intake and exercise regime are designed for men and they simply don’t work in the same way for women. Your body and its needs are not the same from day-to-day and week-to-week. They shift very specifically. So, trying to jump on the male-focussed diet and exercise bandwagon without understanding your hormones will just set you up for frustration and failure at some point during January. One week, you’ll be happy with soup for dinner and want to meet up with your bestie (because your hormones will have decreased your appetite, increased your energy and made you want to be sociable), but the next (because your hormones will shift) you’ll want to eat a full roast dinner, still be hungry and feel like you have no energy to do anything. It’s not that you’re “being crap”, and it’s not that you’re unable to stick to your resolutions. It’s because your hormones change and that affects your willingness and willpower. Start to look at your life, diet, movement and achievements as a monthly female, not a daily male. This way, you’ll not get so discouraged by the peaks and troughs of January, or any other month. Read more about how your cycle affects you here and find out in what phase it’s best to eat certain things, exercise certain ways and also rest.
Yes, this is another point linked with your cycle but, it’s crucial to navigating January with more sparkle and less struggle. Most women’s periods are worse in January because your period is a reflection of how you treated your body and mind in the previous month. Right now, your body will be working hard to get over the stress and inflammation caused by your December diet and activities – that means there’ll usually be an increase in your feelings of tiredness (as your body uses up energy to fight inflammation) and worse PMS and period pains (also due to inflammation). The following tips in this article will help reduce your inflammation so that your period next month can be better. For this one however, you should be extra strict about getting more rest (especially for the first two days of your period), drinking more water, eating more greens and saying “no” to any unnecessary plans, outings or meet-ups. Take some Epsom salt baths to help soothe and detox your body; drink raspberry leaf tea before and during your period (to help with cramps), and then just nurture and nourish yourself to the MAX. For more on your periods and what they tell you about your health, read this.
I know this is the opposite of what you’re meant to do for the “New year, new you” stuff, but seriously, your body needs to rest, reflect and enjoy some restoration post-December. January should be a month you look forward to instead of dread, knowing that you’ll indulge in some serious hibernating and recovery from all that Crimbo took out of you. I’m talking about taking a 6-15 minute nap when you get home from work (or literally whenever you can), and some 30-minute naps at the weekends while iPads, films, football matches etc. are given to your family members so you have the time to do this.
In January, try not to schedule meet-ups with people, and try to avoid activities during the cold, dark evenings or early mornings, unless absolutely necessary. Take longer baths and get earlier nights than you normally would (even 30 mins earlier will help). The world was created in perfect balance – two seasons that are more energetic and “outward”, filled with more daylight and (generally) better weather, ie. Spring and Summer. Then, there are two seasons when the weather is colder, days are shorter, your energy is lower and rest becomes your friend, ie. Autumn and Winter. I know this doesn’t suit society’s capitalist culture that champions “work, work, work” and January gym memberships but, it wasn’t meant to be this way. You weren’t meant to struggle so much in January. Your energy and lifestyle is meant to ebb and flow and reflect the seasons wherever possible. You’re meant to enjoy the rest and restoration of Winter time, knowing it will soon be Spring when you can then “spring” into action and the green shoots (literally and metaphorically) will appear. In a short while, the days will get longer, the sun will appear and you’ll naturally have more energy to do all you want to. For now, however, if you’re tired, please just rest – it’s the most natural thing to be doing this month.
January is meant to be the cosiest, loveliest, winter month ever! Most of us sadly can’t give up our jobs, stop taking the kids to school, not do food shops or go to bed at 4pm, but you CAN get cosy instead of crazy this month. Once your day jobs are done, why not (for as many nights as you can in January) go home, take your make-up off, get in your cosiest clothes/pjs and have an array of ways to make your evenings sparkly instead of crappy. Why not keep those twinkly fairy lights up instead of ripping them down in the first week of January if they make you happy? Why not make Monday nights the night you do an easy dinner like beans on toast, followed by sofa snuggles with your favourite blanket/pet/person? Tuesday nights could be the night you take a bath, fill it with Epsom salts and essential oils to boost your mood and just reeeelaaaaxxxxx. Wednesday nights could be the night you light candles and re-watch your most favourite films ever (especially funny and feel-good ones). Thursday nights could be when you make everyone read a book in bed with hot water bottles and hot chocolate. What other cosy January rituals can you think of that make you happy just thinking about them? Allowing yourself time to create cosiness after a month of madness could be just the thing to help blow away those January blues.
Our bodies are so clever, and they CAN be trusted (not what the diet industry wants you to believe though). In January, most women are longing for more veggies and less ‘stodge’. However, we take this natural urge as a reason to start banning all sorts of foods. If you find sticking to healthy eating tough for the whole of January, can I suggest that, instead of vowing to “cut out all the bad things” (which will just make your mind want them more), that you simply focus on adding things in.
So, add 1.5-2l of water each day. Upping the H2O in your life can ease everything from migraines and exhaustion to low moods and bloating. You can start to feel more alert, energised and generally better with just this one change. Add some red and purple berries (frozen ones are great) to your porridge or breakfast cereal; add some nuts and/or seeds to your snacks; add gorgeous greens to every meal (eg. try a veggie-based green smoothie with your breakfast, a big handful of rocket or watercress with your lunch and spinach, cabbage or broccoli etc with your dinner). Greens do everything from boosting your energy to helping your liver function at its best – which you want in tip-top condition if you want to get rid of excess hormones, excess weight and other toxins that make you feel crappy and tired. Finally, add some good fats to your meals to help you feel full, boost your body, energy, hair and skin. For example, sprinkle some ground flaxseed on your brekkie, add some sliced avocado to your sandwich and add some coconut oil to your veggies with dinner. By adding not subtracting foods, and even allowing yourself some of the things that you’re craving (remember this will change as your cycle changes), you’ll set your body up for a big boost, instead of a big blow-out in January.
To feel your absolute best as a human being, you’re meant to wake up with sunlight, be out in natural daylight and then go to bed and sleep when it gets dark. This simple plan was designed to give you all the energy you need to get through your days. However, this natural rhythm has been hi-jacked, and days are often spent indoors with no natural light. At night time, you’re then bombarded with bright lights that wake you up, such as TVs, laptops, phones, artificial house lighting and street lamps. This reversal of your natural rhythm is part of the reason why you often feel sluggish instead of sparkly.
So, here’s what can help you this month. Within 30 minutes of waking up (or it getting light outside), get out into natural daylight for at least 5-10 minutes and look at the sky (not direct sunlight). This is because sunlight increases your production of serotonin (your happy hormone) and signals to your body that it’s daytime and time to feel awake. Then, try and get outside as much as you can throughout the day – even just for 5 minutes here and there. This’ll help boost your daytime energy and feelings of wellness, but it will also help you sleep better at night.
As your day turns to night, try and reduce your exposure to bright, artificial lights by sticking to things like non-bright lamps in your home (salt lamps are amazing for this). If you need to be on your phone, TV and laptop in the evenings, then go to the settings and turn down their screen brightness, invest in some blue/green light blocking glasses and come off all devices an hour before you go to bed. This will all help you not feel so crappy in January as it’ll reset your body’s natural rhythm, helping you feel awake in the day and sleepy and more rested at night.
I know getting up in January when it’s dark and cold can be really horrible, but this month, try and add some simple ‘sparkle habits’ to your mornings. When you get out of bed – stretch your body for 30 seconds, open a window and let some fresh air in and then drink a glass of water (you’ll be super dehydrated when you wake up and this is part of the ‘groggy’ feeling). Then, as you get yourself (and possibly your family) ready, put on music that makes you feel happy and energised (for me it’s my reggae albums, 90’s pop or the Dirty Dancing soundtrack!). Add a couple of drops of an invigorating essential oil (e.g. eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon, bergamot, grapefruit) to the wall or floor of your shower and let the steam of your shower create a mood-boosting mist. When you drink your first warm drink of the day, have it out of your favourite mug, or buy yourself a beautiful new one. Lastly, when you get dressed, so as not to feel grey like the sky outside, add some colour, sparkle or scent to your get up – wear a bright top or lipstick, pop on some sparkly earrings, or spritz yourself with your “best” perfume. All these things will help your mornings have a little less stress and more sparkle this January!
Overall, just look after yourself this month and be extra lovely to yourself. If you want to go for that early morning run, then babe, you go for it! However, if that feels like punishment, and you’re already knackered post-Crimbo, then just be gentle with yourself, hydrate yourself, get some fresh air and cosy nights in. Remember, January is meant to be full of rest and comfort, not resolutions and feeling crappy. Find some new ways that work for you and will make your January truly sparkle!