Journey Out of the Mid-January Blahs

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer
After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays that started right before Thanksgiving and ended several days after the New Year began, you might now be struggling with the fact that a few of those New Year’s resolutions you made aren’t necessarily “resoluting” (yeah, I know that’s not an actual word but you know what I mean if some of them are breathing their last breath already). At this point one can get into sort of a “mid-January” funk, especially if you live in a place where the cold weather, snow, and seemingly endless gray winter days add to the funkiness of how you feel.

I used to live in the Midwest and I remember those gray, cold, dreary winter days. While I don’t live there anymore, I’ve been experiencing that sort of funky feeling lately starting in mid-January.  Another word that describes it is “blah,” which “refers to something which is boring or without meaningful content; dull or unexciting” (quote source here). There are other meanings for “blah,” but for the purposes of this blog post, that will do.

In an article titled, 7 Smart Ways to Beat the Mid-January Blahs,” by Jenn (no last name mentioned) who blogs at TheArtofBetter.com, she writes:

Now that the (sometimes) crazy parts of the year are over, it’s easy to fall into the Mid-January blahs (<–don’t know if that’s a real term or not but I’m going with it!)

The blahs are when life feels a little lackluster, you feel a bit bored, or you get stuck in a rut. So, why is the back half of January often subdued and slightly depressing for so many people?

Well, we’re finally finished shouting “Happy New Year” at each other. Before that, Christmas happened, and before that it was whole Thanksgiving thing. The months of November through the middle of January are basically a blur of major holidays, for many people, at least.

And then comes the middle of January with nothing much to look forward to for the rest of the month.

And then comes the middle of January when most people start faltering in their New Year’s resolutions.

Plus, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s pretty much the gray days of winter.

It’s easy to see where the middle of January blahs come in. Blah is right. BUT! There are a few simple, smart things you can do to contend with it and change your mood. (Quote source and a list of the “few simple smart things you can do” is available at this link.)

I also read the following quote in an article titled, 10 Quotes When You Just Feel Like Blah,” by Jamie Kensinger, who describes herself as “a late-20-something with a framed Higher Ed degree, striving to create culture.” Her article is published on ThoughtCatalog.com,  and she opens with the following statement:

There are days when you just feel like, “Blah.” There is no other way to describe it. You are a bit off, unsettled, irritated, and basically are the poster child for “Blah.” These quotes [see article at this link for quotes] are to serve as a pick-me-up and to let you know that you are not the only one that isn’t really at the top of your game, on cloud nine, loving just being alive, taking in the fresh air…you know, all those happy-go-lucky type things. (Quote source here.)

As “a mid-60-something with two unframed Higher Ed degrees who at this point in time is just striving to understand what has happened to our culture when I wasn’t looking…” 🙂 I do understand where she is coming from. Circumstances, age or even gender notwithstanding, “blah” is a universal feeling that just shows up from time to time, and especially in the winter months.

In my particular set of circumstances, my blah feelings actually showed up a week ago when I got a call from my younger brother who lives in another state who told me that our dad had just been admitted to the hospital with a racing heart beat and breathing issues. He’s 95. He is also in good health otherwise. Unfortunately, he lives about 900 miles north from where I live so that adds to a sort of “helpless” feeling about his situation since I’m not physically there (however, my younger brother lives there). He’s been in the hospital for over a week now and they put a pacemaker in his heart yesterday and he is doing better now. We are not sure when he will get out of the hospital yet but things are looking up and he’ll recuperate at my brother’s home.

This situation has brought up a realization that life for all of us is fragile and that time waits for no one. While I’ve been dealing with my own issues of trying to find affordable housing on a Social Security income for longer then I care to think about without any resolution yet, this health situation with my 95-year-old father has added somewhat of a new twist to it. It’s not that my being there where he is living would change anything (and he has excellent doctors looking after him as well as my brother and his family), but this is the reason that triggered my own set of mid-January blahs.

The fact is that I’m tired of stagnating in this housing situation but I’m still not sure how to move forward. And my dad ending up in the hospital at the age of 95 this past week and not knowing if he was going to come out of that hospital alive or not has put a jolt in me that something in my own situation needs to change. So my current case of “the blahs” has more to do with ambiguity over what I need to do.

In an April 30, 2018 article in Forbes titled, What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do,” by Frances McIntosh, a member of Forbes Coaches Council and Forbes Community Voice, she makes some recommendations for people in work settings which can also be used by those of us who are not currently employed:

We’ve all been there: knowing we need to make a choice, but not knowing how….

So, we don’t make a decision. This leaves us feeling stuck, bringing with it feelings of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. In other words, vulnerable.

Feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed could be a red flag, a time when we need to pause and intentionally think of what the next step looks like….

It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but the answer is this: Stop over-complicating things and just keep it simple. When you stop overthinking, it’s so much easier to move forward and get out of the rut.

Exercise.

There is a wealth of evidence-based research that shows exercising boosts your mood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that give you a natural “high.” Ever wonder why runners smile? They’re high on endorphins!

For the most impact, exercise outside, taking advantage of the sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D. Even just a short walk around the block will release serotonin and other endorphins. No need to get sweaty to clear your mind — just get moving.

Smile.

Did you know that you can smile your mind into a different outlook? Smiling releases a group of feel-good hormones — endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin — acting as a natural pain medication and an antidepressant for the brain. The simple act of smiling can help change your perspective.

An added bonus? Not only is a smile the accessory that goes with everything, it’s contagious. When we’re making ourselves feel better, we make others feel better too, putting them at ease with something as simple as a smile.

Unplug.

We are way too connected to technology today. Switching off your cell phone or computer will allow you to become more creative. As Simon Sinek highlights, when we disconnect from technology, we allow our minds time to wander and access different perspectives within our own thoughts. When we’re not constantly “plugged in,” we can find solutions for problems that we thought there were no solutions for. We become more energized, seeing things around us that would otherwise be lost.

One last word about unplugging, remember that walk around the block I mentioned? Leave your phone at the office and look up and at the world around you. Clarity could be in the trees!

Watch an inspirational movie.

This is one of my all-time favorite things to do when I feel stuck: go to the movies by myself. Being an introvert, this allows me to just be. No worries about having a conversation, no concern if the other person is enjoying the movie or not. It’s a place to just be, watch inspiring stories and recharge.

Movies aren’t your thing? That’s OK. Find something that raises your energy, clears your mind and allows you to focus on something outside of you to give your mind space.

Get candid feedback.

Often, when we don’t know what to do, we miss ideas, solutions or next steps that are right in front of us. Getting honest feedback from a trusted friend, colleague or coach–who we know has our best interest at heart–can help us see a different perspective or uncover a blind spot. This opens our mind up to more clearly see our options.

Revisit your core values.

When stuck, go back to your core values. These are the foundation of who you are and act as an anchor, keeping you grounded when life gets crazy, scary or uncertain. If you’re not making decisions from your core values, this could be what’s keeping you stuck. If not, recenter on your core values and move forward from there.

Do the very next easy thing.

Sometimes we get stuck or overwhelmed because we are looking at our goal without defining the steps it takes to get there. If you’re focusing on the financial side of a project because you know it’s important, but you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know how to reach your goal, stop! Simply ask, “What is the one next easy step? Delegating tasks? Collecting quotes? Going for a walk?” Look at the next stop, not the end goal.

Being stuck or overwhelmed is human, we all do it or feel it at times. The secret is to not stay in that place. Feel the discomfort, process the “data,” rest, refuel, refocus, and do the very next thing to move yourself forward. Don’t overthink this—it could be as simple as a smile. (Quote source here.)

Perhaps, like me, you weren’t expecting these answers, yet they are excellent suggestions to help us start thinking “outside of the box” that we often find ourselves in when it comes to trying to move forward but not knowing how. And, at least I have the first two suggestions down pat (and a third–I love going to movies and agree with her comment on going alone–although I don’t mind company, either). I’ve been exercising regularly for over seven years now, and I’ve always been known to smile a lot all of my life (it’s just part of my nature). In fact, I’m feeling better already after reading her suggestions as who knows what might happen that ends up moving us forward and out of the stalemate we find ourselves in.

In a devotion titled Don’t Give Up!” the author (name not given) states:

1 Corinthians 10:13 in The Message Bible states: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

All of us have been tempted to lose hope and give up. But we always have a choice: focus on God and stay in faith, or focus on the problem and give up.

Problems–no matter how huge they seem to us–are no problem to God. Nothing is too hard, or complicated, for God to solve. But God wants us to trust Him.

So what should you do when you are being tempted and feel like giving in and giving up?

Refuse!

Just keep your focus on the Lord and rejoice in His faithfulness. Remember that God cannot lie, and will never fail. God will see you through. (Quote source here.)

No matter what is behind our case of “the blahs,” remember the words Jesus gave to his disciples in Luke 18:1 (regarding the Parable of the Persistent Widow, vv. 1-8). He started off by telling his disciples that they should always pray and not give up, just like the persistent widow did in the parable who finally, after a very long time, received justice from her adversary.

I’ll end this post with these few words…

Don’t give in . . .

And . . .

Don’t give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here