In 2005, a British travel company determined that the “worst day of the year” in the Northern hemisphere was “Blue Monday,” or the third (in our case fourth) Monday in January. This made-up day was identified by an equally made-up equation that included variables like weather, the amount of post-holiday debt, and length of time since giving up on New Year’s resolutions.
Although the idea of “Blue Monday” hasn’t caught on in the United States, no one can deny that it is easy for irritation to take hold and moods to slump during the cold, gray slog of January.
“Blue Monday” vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Many people casually blame “Seasonal Affective Disorder” to explain their feelings at this time of year. However, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific form of depression that affects people about the same time each year over the course of several years.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD affects about 1 in 20 people in the U.S. and can last up to five months. It usually begins in the late fall and lasts until spring is well underway.
In the Kansas City area, SAD can start in October or November and last until March or April—much longer than the January slump that includes “Blue Monday.” SAD can also be much more severe.
However, treatments for SAD and the January slump include some of the same things:
Whether you are experiencing a temporary slump or recurrent SAD, if you experience five or more of the following symptoms, most days of the week, for two weeks or longer, it is time to get help.
Humans were created to be together. Science says that physically, mentally and emotionally, we thrive when we are in a healthy and secure relationship. So why are we breaking up and getting divorced at high rates? The short answer to this complicated question is that we do not understand ourselves, our partner, and our shared dynamic. When we do not take time to understand ourselves or our partner, we create a complicated, uncomfortable, inconvenient “mess.” Everyone’s “mess” looks different, but here’s an idea of what it might look like.
Bob and Tina are set to get married this summer. Tina is flooded with apprehension due to Bob’s laziness. At first, Tina thought Bob wanting to relax on Sundays was great, she enjoyed snuggling and a slow brunch. But now she believes the time could be spent wiser. Like accomplishing house projects, accomplishing wedding tasks or heaven forbid attending church every once in awhile! The thought of church just spirals her into guilt and worry about their hypothetical-children-that-aren’t-born-yet’s future.
Bob is irritated that Tina has become so demanding. She’s not the carefree Tina anymore. Which is probably a good thing because carefree Tina drank too much and racked up a lot of credit card debt. He doesn’t get why she’s so defensive when he talks about finances and budgeting. She should be grateful she has a soon-to-be-husband who is responsible, unlike her own dad. Don’t get him started on Tina’s family. They are a bit too much.
I can hear you saying it “Wow, this is terrible, they should not get married!” But there is hope for Bob and Tina, and for all of us! Prepare/Enrich is a premarital program that prepares couples for marriage and provides support for married couples who want to enrich their relationship. It focuses on building understanding as a couple, and as individuals who are committed to a shared relationship.
Over 4 millions couples have completed P/E. It is one of the most researched programs in the world. It provides evidence based skills and insight that can build a healthy relationship. Studies show that couples who engage in P/E prior to marriage have a dramatically lower rate of divorce than couples who do not engage in counseling.
Prepare/Enrich covers important topics like communication, stress, finances, relationship roles, family dynamics, parenting and much more.
Here’s how it works:
As a facilitator I enjoy the strengths-based approach of P/E. It allows couples to build on their strengths and learn ways to work through their growth opportunities. The program is customizable too. It allows us to include other therapeutic interventions that might be helpful to the relationship. I love witnessing the enrichment of relationships.
And a quick and final note. Relationships do not have to be a “mess” to go to counseling. Going to counseling at any time is not an indicator of your future relationship. It is an investment. In fact, you can do some of your best work and growth when things aren’t a mess!
Sound like something you or a couple friend would benefit from? Set an appointment today!
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.”
How many of us say we’re ready to make some big changes in our lives, yet they just don’t seem to come to fruition?
We say we’re finally going to hit the gym, start that business, or choose a healthier relationship, and somehow our plans get thwarted or we can’t seem to rev up the motivation to actually do the thing. Welcome to the club. The truth is, change is hard. Patterns and habits have often been years in the making. Sometimes those patterns are protecting us in some way, despite our lack of awareness around their purpose or our eagerness to change them. Other times, we simply aren’t ready to change, but we feel like we “should.”
If you’re trying to shift a “bad” habit or do something different with your life but you’re finding yourself stuck, there may be an underlying reason why. Often, we try to make changes without first examining what got us where we are. We try to create new patterns without letting go of the old habits, environments, and people who may be contributing to our stuck-ness.
If you’re trying to move forward, consider these steps:
There are many ways to let go of what’s not working. It’s important not to skip the grieving process and to be open to new perspectives. You can get creative with this by learning to externalize some of the thoughts that weigh you down. Studies show that writing out negative thoughts on a piece of paper and throwing the paper away in the trash can lessen their grip on us. Our brains don’t always make a distinction between the mental and the physical, so physically discarding the critical thoughts, the worries, and any fears you may be harboring can actually reduce mental distress.
In a similar vein, de-cluttering your physical environment can have a positive impact on your emotional and mental state. Cleaning your home, office, and any other physical space you frequently occupy, is an effective way to curtail chaos and create space for new energy.
One of the most important tools for growth is creating and maintaining strong boundaries. These can be boundaries with people, places, and/or things that no longer serve you. I like to think of it as a “culling.” Take an inventory of how you spend your time, where you spend it, and with whom. Are these habits pushing you forward or holding you back? It may not be as extreme as cutting out everyone in your life who does not support your vision, but you may need to put time limits on how often you see certain people. You may realize that certain topics of discussion are just off-limits with others. You may need to take a break from social settings that reinforce the pattern you’re trying to change (i.e. staying out of bars if you’re trying to cut down on drinking). Holding a healthy boundary might require you to speak up to someone who is a stressor in your life, or it might force you to end a toxic relationship. Boundaries are hard! You will probably experience some discomfort. However, you can’t expect to keep doing the same old thing you’ve been doing and get a different result.
A Take Home Message
Pain is a part of life. It helps us learn what does not work for us. Thank your pain for showing you what still needs healing. As singer Ingrid Michaelson says, “Happy is the heart that still feels pain.” We experience pain so that we can know when we are hurting ourselves and others. The good news is, the discomfort you may feel from upholding a boundary typically results in less pain long term. Trust this process and notice that you can survive the discomfort.
Part of letting go also means giving yourself permission to feel good again. When you know what you’re afraid of, you can start to find healthier ways to cope. If it’s a fear of being alone, immerse yourself in healthy relationships and activities that feed your soul. Or simply text a friend and/or think back to a time when you felt loved and connected to others.
Once you begin to let go, you give yourself the space to find creative solutions to problems and you develop healthier coping skills and boundaries. Most importantly, when you give up all the things that weigh you down, you give yourself permission to fly.