“January is almost over, you made it,” you think to yourself enthusiastically. “I’m over the hump!” Then the realization of a month of the incoming February grays hits you like gluten-free stuffing after Christmas dinner, hard. You can’t get off the couch. You feel like a human comforter. Best to probably call it a day.
I never fare well mentally in January and February. My skin feels dry. My clothes feel tight. The world feels confusing and meaningless outside my apartment. I went to buy my MetroCard for the NYC subway and when the screen came up asking if I wanted to “ADD TIME,” it catapulted me into an existential crisis. January has me coming undone.
This year, that feeling of inner turmoil is compounded by my anxiety surrounding the new “administration.” I know a lot of people are struggling with this (I know that because my therapist told me so). But we must press on. We must rise up from laying on the bathroom floor and say, “I can shower today!” I’m not a doctor (although I do know my way around MayoClinic dot com), so always check with a healthcare professional if you have serious health concerns, but here are some suggestions for a few life hacks that just might help pull you from the depths of your food-stained recliner.
1) Just Walk: Walking LITERALLY changes your brain chemistry. Pop on some headphones, lace up your sneakers and just go. You will feel so much better. When I am stuck on writing or need to work through a problem, I walk. When I am angry or sad, I do best if I throw on a ball cap and head out the door. (If you want to know the science behind why walking works there is a great book called “Surviving Survival” by Laurence Gonzales.)
2) Make a DID List: I am guilty of making these incredibly long to-do lists that are impossible to accomplish. Every day just feels like a barrage of stuff I didn’t finish from the day before coupled with new stuff to do, culminating in me feeling like a failure. So now I make a DID list. I write down every single little thing I did during the day and look at it. It makes me realize that I am making progress and accomplishing things. (PS - down time also counts as accomplishing something.)
3) Pamper: If you have that extra cash to do a spa day now is the time! You can also get a $10 neck massage at a nail place and it’s amazing how someone touching you just feels so nice and needed. Paint your toes and have a private dance party in your house while they are drying. I notice that even if I just buy a cheap face mask and throw on some super comfy socks, I feel like it’s a little mini vacation.
4) Time Limits on Binging: I’m a show binger. I’m also capable of watching multiple movies in a row. Oh the skills! The fact is that I really enjoy it and am not going to stop doing it. I need to completely lose myself in something and block out the world sometimes. It’s one of the only ways I successfully regroup; so I will give myself a time limit, bordering on almost offensive. I will tell myself I can have the entire day to do nothing but zone out. I give myself permission to hide from the world for 24 whole hours (and maybe that means watching shows with subtitles so I can’t look at my phone at the same time). Then I don’t feel guilty afterwards because I scheduled it, it’s out of my system and I actually feel rejuvenated.
5) Eat Real Food: I love junk food. And sometimes we all have to indulge. But it NEVER makes me feel better. It always makes me feel gross, the chemicals throw off my moods, I can see it on my skin. I always am less depressed if I take the time to cook. Throw a veggie in there. Boil an egg. Just get a vitamin into your body. When you are down, try to stay away from overly processed foods. They just don’t help. They are a moody mad at yourself trap.
6) Volunteer: Be a part of something you believe in, a part of something bigger. It not only serves as way to get out of the house and meet new people, it provides a sense of purpose. I also feel like it’s harder to cancel an engagement if I feel I’m letting someone down.
7) Friends: Call one. I mean actually telephone a human, don’t text. I know, crazy. Maybe even make a date for coffee or to go see something together.
8) Get Offline: The internet is both a gift and a curse. Especially now with the barrage of political sh&%storms happening, it is becoming harder and harder to separate ourselves from our phones. Take blackout breaks. No Facebook. No news. No Twitter. Trust me, when you log back on there will still be chaos brewing. Be in your own timeline for a few hours a day. I go to the library (a great resource) and check out books. (Who doesn’t love free stuff?!) Physical real books not on my phone, and try to read a little every day on the subway or before bed. Lose yourself in a story or a non-fiction that isn’t interrupted by incoming messages.
9) Get a Therapist: I know it’s money. I understand there’s a stigma around mental health. I get that it’s hard to find the right person. BUT, there are places that take sliding scale. You don’t have to tell anyone you are going if you don’t want to. And, if you hang in there and find your therapist match she/he will help you actually change your life. It’s sort of (really) a very big deal.
10) Be Nice: I’m wound up tighter than my Spanx just after the holidays, but when I am nice to people it always makes for a better day. I try to focus on all the things I’m grateful for and remember to say thank you. It sounds like a cheeseball move, but I believe it is imperative to happiness and right now, to the good of the world.
Now lose those sweatpants, shower it off, lotion it up (it’s dry out there) and move it on out Young Skywalker! The Force is with you!