Jan 11

How to beat the January blues

cat-vsmallHi, I’m Cat Williams. I am a relationship counsellor, British Army wife, author, speaker, and mother of two. I blog about and answer relationship dilemmas on my website www.staycalmandcontent.com

During the first few months of the New Year we can often feel low. This might be because it is a cold and dark time of year; because the fun of Christmas and New Year is over; because our festive period was perhaps not as pleasant as we might have wished, or we might feel overweight or unfit, or have financial, relationship or employment worries.

What is the secret of feeling calmer and happier in the New Year?

1. Watch your expectations.

The New Year brings stress because of our own expectations of ourselves. We often make new ‘resolutions’, which implies that there are things we feel we need to change about ourselves, in order to feel happier.

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere’.

Agnes Repplier

Society seems to suggest we should constantly want to be thinner, fitter, richer, or ‘better’ so that we would feel happier. This quickly leads to self-criticism if we believe in these ideals and judge ourselves to be lacking in some way.

The first part of the secret to feeling happier is to take control of your own priorities and expectations of yourself.

2. Learn from others.

Those who cope best are those who don’t panic about new years resolutions. They acknowledge that they are not perfect, but they don’t expect themselves to be, they focus on being gentle on themselves, whilst also prioritising their lives and re-focusing their efforts on what is most important to them.

3. Understand that stress comes from self-esteem.

When we feel happy and ‘at our best’ is when our self-esteem is good. We usually feel confident in our ability to cope with life even under challenging circumstances.

We feel ‘stressed’ when we perceive the demands being placed on us as exceeding our ability to cope with them. In this situation our self-esteem (a combination of self-confidence, self-worth and self-belief), is being ‘threatened’ and so our physiological fight or flight instinct kicks in. This causes physical changes such as an increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, or agitation.

We will describe these physical experiences as negative emotions such as frustration, anger, fear or anxiety.

If we are unaware that threats to our self-esteem generate our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem.

We instinctively do what makes ourselves feel more in control or ‘better’ at the time, maybe become angry or defensive more quickly, or argue with our spouse or children, or do something to ‘take our mind off it’ such as throwing ourselves into a new gym regime or hobby, and then quickly berate ourselves if it doesn’t work or we fail to keep it up.

If we are being critical to ourselves or others then it is a clear sign that our self-esteem is being affected.

Top Tips to reduce stress.

  • Take responsibility. You are the only one responsible for how you feel about yourself, no one can ‘make you’ feel anything you don’t want to feel.
  • Challenge your own priorities. What really matters to you? What makes you feel most content and happy? Do you spend time on other ‘priorities’ because you have picked up from others that you should be doing those things?
  • Maintain and build your own self-esteem by choosing activities which build your self-confidence and which truly fit in with your beliefs and values. Choose people to spend your time with who accept you as you are and help you to feel good about yourself.
  • Focus on other people. Those around us are likely to be feeling just the same as we are. Be gentle on others, recognise that their self-esteem can also become affected at this time of year so help to build them up. Supporting others is the surest way to find support in return.
  • Instant self-esteem. When you start feeling stressed, or start ‘getting at’ yourself or other people, find somewhere to be alone, even for a couple of minutes. Take slow deep breaths and imagine you are breathing in a warm, bright light and breathing out self-doubt and self-criticism. Say to yourself, out loud if possible, – “I am okay, I can only do my best, I can cope with this, I believe in myself”. Smile and stretch your arms to relieve your tension.
  • Be careful around difficult people! Those we care most about have the most powerful influence over our self-esteem. Remember; you, not they, decide how you feel about yourself.

If someone is unpleasant to you then he or she will be feeling low about themselves for some reason and are attacking or criticising you to try to feel better. Don’t take it personally, their behaviour is about themselves not you, try to understand rather than criticise them in return.

- Encourage and praise your partner, your family, friends and children Giving praise and recognition shows healthy self-esteem and is the most likely way we will receive the same in return.

Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how”

Read the book! ‘Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You’ covers more than 25 different topics in a jargon-free and easy to read manner, it is an accessible and instant approach living a happier life. Only $15.00 on Amazon, multiple 5 star reviews and professional starred reviews.

You can also visit my blog on www.staycalmandcontent.com and ask me confidentially about your dilemmas. I am @catstaycalm on Twitter and Stay Calm and Content on Facebook.

50% of profits from Stay Calm and Content are going to military and civilian counselling charities.


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  1. Paris

    Thanks for the great tips….happy new year!

    1. camountain

      Thank you for dropping by Paris :-)

  2. Dan Murray

    Cat, a timely and encouraging message for everyone. Thanks for sharing in a simple but effective format. “Inspect what you Inspect” is what comes to mind when reading this.

    1. Cat Williams

      Thanks Dan, and everyone for your comments. I wish you all a calm and content January and am glad you like the post. Thank you once again Candace for hosting me.

      Does anyone have any more ideas for marketing and spreading the word? I can write blog posts on any element of relationships whether at work or at home – challenge me!

      Please also let me know of anyone would like a free copy of Stay calm and Content to review for me?

      Thank you lovely people :-) Cat xxx

  3. Chris Manning

    What a truely insightfull and inspiring article. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Cat Williams

      Thank you Chris x

  4. Michael Kornowski

    you’re absolutely right. this article might help a lot of people with these hesitations. btw: I really dislike january:-(

    1. Cat Williams

      I hope so, I don’t love January either, although its my birthday on Sunday so it picks up then :-)

  5. Mark Bern

    In 2012 I set a goal to lose 40 lbs. I did it! In 2013 I wanted to lose another 30 lbs, but I simply stayed where I was. But I don’t look at the result as a failure because I didn’t gain anything back! So, for 2014 my goal is different: I just want to improve my energy level and become more productive again. I have a list of simple, very achievable micro goals to help me make improvements. I am not setting any specific overall goal. All I want is improvement to satisfy myself.

    1. camountain

      Firstly, congratulations on keeping that 40 pounds off. I think you have a very healthy way of approaching the changes you want to make in your life. Change always starts with a real desire and I believe you have this and that gives me faith that you will reach your goals.

    2. Cat Williams

      That sounds perfect Mark, well done, the best goals are the ones which are truly for you and will make you and therefore those around you happier, good luck :-)

  6. Shahidul Alam

    Sensible, commonsensical suggestions. But then common sense is rarely common. Thanks.

    1. Cat Williams - Stay Calm and Content

      Thank you Shahidul :-)

  7. Angus Whitton

    Some points to ponder there.

    1. Cat Williams

      Thank you Angus.

  8. James Wirshing

    I agree with all of your points and suggestions. Regardless of the time of year, they are all relevant.

    1. Cat Williams

      Thank you James.

  9. David

    I know January is a natural line of demarcation as the start of a new year. For some people that might be too much pressure. You see so many people the first couple weeks at the gym. New members. And if they miss a few days then they just bail. Maybe if people tried to treat January as just another month then they wouldn’t be crippled by the sense that everyone around them is forging ahead.

    Great piece. Thanks for writing it. Timely. Obviously. :)

    1. Cat Williams

      Thanks David, I agree, it is such a shame that January often leads to feeling ‘crippled’ like you say, rather than seeing it purely as a positive chance to reevaluate what we spend our time doing, and maybe make some adjustments for the better! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Cat.

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