Life support: How to beat the January health blues

January is a karma. If the month was a woman, she would be that you love and hate in equal measure. Love because it heralds the New Year, new hope, new aspirations and so much more. But hate because the month is extremely challenging. No matter how much you plan to approach the month, it has a way of getting back to haunt you for all the ‘misdeeds’ in the festive season.

January is a karma. If the month was a woman, she would be that you love and hate in equal measure. Love because it heralds the New Year, new hope, new aspirations and so much more. But hate because the month is extremely challenging. No matter how much you plan to approach the month, it has a way of getting back to haunt you for all the ‘misdeeds’ in the festive season.

Your eager anticipation for the holidays is over, replaced by the reality of a celebration that didn’t live up to your expectations. Your clothes are tight from the weight you gained from the parties and winter sweet cravings. Your loved ones are gone and you’re feeling lonely. By the end of the first week of January, one-third to one-half of you have already caved in on your New Year’s resolutions, leaving you feeling disappointed and frustrated. The credit card bills have arrived and you realise you spent more than you planned.

Now is the time to take stock of your life. You need to check your health life and assess what could be amiss, weigh them against the positives to project the desirable health life you need to live in 2014. But where do you even start from to make your January free of health blues?

Get good rest

Poor sleep patterns not only leave us feeling sluggish during the day, but also increase our vulnerability to getting sick. Sleep heals our body, so not getting enough can impair our ability to fight infection and stay well. Aim for at least seven hours a night to ensure you’re giving your body enough time to recuperate and heal.

Commit to an exercise plan you will continue

Physical activity can release endorphins, reducing your stress level. Studies show that 30 minutes of brisk walking reduces depression for several hours. A regular exercise routine can also play a part in weight reduction and better sleep patterns. Plan to include some outdoor daytime exercise to take advantage of the natural light outside.

Don’t punish yourself


If, like most of the population, eating and drinking too much has left you feeling mildly disgusted with yourself, try to ignore it. Don’t come over all puritanical and decide that January is going to be an alcohol-, smoke- and fun-free zone – that will just make an already bleak month much worse. By all means resume the gym visits that you ditched in December, cut back on junk food and have a few early nights, but don’t go to extremes.

Establish eating habits that incorporate nutritious foods in well-balanced meals

During the holiday season, women can gain an average of five to seven pounds. Now get back to a healthier diet and smaller portions. Leafy green vegetables with high levels of folic acid and oily fish with vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids help maintain an upbeat mood. Foods like Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, needed to produce serotonin.

Draw on your strengths


What worked for you before when you were feeling down? What core values guided you as you coped with frustrations and disappointments? Use these again as you face challenges in January and watch your resiliency come to the forefront. Don’t hesitate to call upon resources that are there for you.

De-stressing activities


Identify activities that reduce the stresses in your life, then include them in your schedule. If you’re a Sandwiched Boomer, these can range from having help with childcare or elder care to setting aside time to listen to music, read a good book or just do some deep breathing. Get in touch with your spiritual connections for balance and grounding. When you are feeling relaxed and authentically free, you’ll be better able to cope with the hassles you face this winter.

Get support from your family and friends


It was easier to connect during the holidays, but make an effort to follow-up with your social network in January. Share your concerns and validate your feelings or gain a fresh viewpoint. New support and discussion groups as well as community colleges classes generally begin after the New Year. Reach out and join to gain insight and perspective. And don’t forget to spend time with friends just for the plain fun of it - laughter is a great tension reliever.

Turn crises into challenges and challenges into opportunities

Use this time to research changes you want to make. Although you can’t control what happens, you can control how you handle it. If you’re unhappy with your current job, consider how to make it more interesting and engaging. Instead of holding on to family conflicts that boiled up over the holidays, let go of your resentments and anger. When you can forgive, you stop feeling sorry for yourself and become more optimistic.

Express gratitude for what you have

It may sound simple, but as you’ve heard many times, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” What are the things and people in your life that you are grateful for? You’ll find that when you increase your awareness of these positives, you’ll be less likely to experience feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Look outside yourself to those in need


Studies have found that when you perform acts of kindness and giving to those who have less, you feel happier yourself. Around the holidays, numerous organizations send out requests for financial donations but all year they need volunteers to help staff their programs. Consider what best fits your interests, abilities and schedule - then make your contribution with your feet.

Make positive and light plans


To cope with financial issues, make plans that won’t further impact your budget or credit card debt. In the current recession, many families are enjoying activities such as potlucks with friends, visits to local museums, taking daylight walks, borrowing a book from the library. Be creative in your quest for low-cost entertainment.

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