Checking In

We are now officially in the seventh week of the year, and all I can say is, “Thank f*ck”. And still, with love hearts in the air (let's ignore that this post is published the day after the International Day of Selling Overpriced Red Stuff) whoever decided that the very first month of every year just HAD to contain five weeks needs a good talking to.


Me: *enters Enraged Mum Mode*


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But seriously. January is notoriously the most difficult month for many. Coming in hot after the blurriest two weeks of the year, we are somehow expected to show up in January, ready to rock.


Deception.


The comedown from the festive season hits a lot of us hard, especially after the past two years.


We are drained, physically, emotionally, mentally… and a lot of us just need to rest, just for a little bit. Because as joyful as the Christmas commercials would want us to believe the period is, for many, it just isn’t.


And January just sucks:

· In this part of the world, it’s cold. And that sucks.

·We haven’t been paid since December 23rd. All my money is spent on food, booze, presents. What about the bills and shit?

·How did I put on so much weight?


I found a cool diagram at https://www.foundationswellness.net/mental-health/why-is-january-depressing/

Psychologist Cliff Arnall gained widespread media coverage when he proposed this idea in 2004. Taking into consideration several factors that contribute to low mood, he crafted the following formula:



W = weather D = debt d = monthly salary T = time since Christmas Q = time since failing our new year’s resolutions M = low motivational levels Na = the feeling of a need to take action


Which basically tells us why Blue Monday (the third Monday of January) is the worst day of the year. We’re going through a lot this month. So I always find that February is a much healthier time to check in with yourself and with others.


February is actually my favourite month of the year. It could be because it’s the shortest month of the year, and as such, in my mind, counteracts January’s suckiness.


Because winter sucks. I cannot express how much I hate winter. I hate the cold. I hate the rain. And as long as I have to leave my home for more than 5 minutes in the snow, I also despise the snow.




Spring though. Who doesn’t love the prospect of new life? Where the days are ever-so-slightly warmer longer? Where my nose tickles just a little bit when my over-enthusiastic neighbours start to trim their hedges?


This isn’t a blog about Spring.


After the uncertainty of 2020, the chaos of 2021, I’ve noticed so many people finally starting to prioritise their health. They are setting healthy boundaries, resting when they need it, socialising when they want it, and meditating, eating right, and exercising A LOT more regularly. We notice how drained we all felt this time last year, and promised ourselves that this will not be the same in 2022. It’s time to be selfish. It’s time to care for ourselves the way many of us never have. And I think that’s beautiful to see.


So while we’re doing this, there is also a shift in how we interact with others. There is more empathy, and honesty, in our conversations. And where there isn’t, we allow ourselves the grace to create distance between ourselves and others.


The real problem here, though, is the idea of “reaching out”.


At some point last year, our society realised that our mental health was indeed, and should always be, considered our personal priority. I noticed so many people telling others to “reach out” if they’re feeling down, upset, depressed. But let’s really look at what you’re asking people to do here.


As someone with a long history of depression, I can testify to the fact that when we are feeling at our lowest, the very last thing we want to do is “reach out”. Maybe for fear of judgement, maybe because we feel we’re a burden. Whatever the reason, sharing those messages to your social media at a time when the entire world is literally on fire, could actually end up doing more harm than good. And we know that because right now, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it but sit quietly and let it burn*.




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So then I saw an uptake of the “checking in” format. Which did make me feel better because the onus had shifted from the person suffering to those that can truly help them. But what do we do when we’re all in the same shitstorm of negativity, fear, and hypernormal realities that make you want to hide under the duvet forever?


You wait. Literally. Wait.


Wait until that moment you feel the tiniest glimmer of hope, even if that is on a Wednesday at 3am, and message the people who matter to you.


Sure, a 3am text is weird. But you have no idea how much difference you will be able to make to a person’s life just by letting them know you’re thinking of them. By offering a service, a hand, an ear. You are letting this person know that in this very moment, they are not alone.


And that’s huge.


I could go on and on about this (and I probably will in a separate blog). But now that January is over, now that the sun is shining a little brighter and our pockets are feeling the teeniest bit fuller, how about we let go of our stressors, just for an hour a day at the minimum, and send a message to someone we love, at the very least so that they know that even when times are tough, there is someone reaching out to them.



*Though I said “literally” this is actually a metaphor. There is plenty we can do, we just need to peel our eyes away from the screens long enough to see how doomed we truly are.

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