Despite the fact that I am thrilled (ecstatic! overjoyed! jubilant!) that 2020 is over, my joy is tempered by the fact that it’s January.
January has always been a rough month for me. December has Christmas and February is short and holds the promise of spring, but January is just dark and cold and long. It wasn’t so bad when I was younger — in school, or afterward, when I was working outside the house — but being home with small children amplifies all the worst parts of January: the lack of daylight (so many hours between sunset and bedtime), the requirement for layers of dry winter clothes (how do you all dry the wet snow clothes? Ours are in piles near the heaters, taking up space in the dryer, and presenting tripping hazards in the entryway, and they never fully dry out anyway), and the cabin fever (the yard is covered in slush or ice and/or it’s bitterly cold outside, so we mostly just stay in the house). It’s a struggle, every year.
This year, we’re facing a January in which they predict “the worst is yet to come,” virus-wise, and as of this writing, the numbers are proving them right. The things I usually do to help alleviate the darkness, like visiting with family and friends and going out for a date night or two out of the house, are being strongly cautioned against. The school basketball games that I always look forward to are currently paused. My kids, who have been so great over the last year about adjusting to the realities of the pandemic, are starting to have a harder time. I’ve really been trying to come up with ways to keep us as mentally healthy as possible for the next four weeks (I’m so hoping February will be better), and thought my ideas might be helpful to you as well.
Having things to look forward to has always been a good strategy for me in hard times, and they don’t have to be big things—just things that are fun or different than the norm, or improve your quality of life. For example:
• Ordering in for dinner
We tried to do this once a week back in the spring, both as a way of looking forward to something and to support local restaurants. We’re going to get back into it this month — it’s fun for the whole family to look forward to nice food, and great for me and my husband to not have to worry about cooking dinner.
• Getting out of the house
My kids are in school, so they already have this; for me, putting the baby in the stroller or van and going for a walk or taking a drive can break the day up nicely. On really bad days, only a ride in the van and getting coffee at a drive-through will do (preferably with good songs on the radio that I can sing to as I drive).
• Planning to watch a particular movie or show
This one has lost some impact with the availability of anything you want to watch at any time through streaming services, but if you can have the self-control to hold off on watching a particular thing until Friday night, for example, it might provide a nice light at the end of the tunnel each week. This is great for adults, and my boys also love looking forward to Family Movie Night — the best is when we can find a fun and appropriate movie they haven’t yet seen, and have fun food to go with it (even just popcorn).
• Doing a cleaning- or home improvement project
Taking advantage of being home most of the time by knocking off some things on your to-do list can expend some of that cabin-fever energy (for you and the kids) and prevent the walls from feeling like they’re closing in.
• Focusing on good health
January’s the perfect month to start eating better and exercising more, both of which can be done at home. Having a “project” like figuring out a better eating plan and implementing it is the kind of thing that distracts me nicely. I was just encouraging my boys to focus on weight lifting and using the pull-up bar to prepare for when sports resume. It’s fun to look forward to reentering society in the spring (fingers crossed!) as a healthier version of yourself.
The next time you hear from me, it’ll be February — I’m so looking forward to it. Have a safe and speedy January!