Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creating Positivity (Why the New Year Isn't Always Easy)



Here's the deal you guys.  Despite all the 'brand newness' and celebration that comes with a new year, and despite the fact that it's my birthday month, and despite the residual bliss of having family here for the holidays and lots of fun vacations each December, I don't like January.  January and February (but especially January) are always my least favorite months.  And sometimes, to get through them without a series of minor breakdowns, I have to work to create my own positivity.

First, as those of you who are regular readers probably know, I'm not a fan of winter.  I'm one of those people who is negatively affected by the lack of sunlight, the short days, the cold weather, and the overall dreariness.  I have things I do to get around this (as I pointed out in my '5 Ways to Melt the Winter Blues' post last year), but it's still a struggle.  I feel very alive and motivated in the spring and summer months when the sun is shining and trees are green.  In the winter, I feel tired and uninspired.

Second, January is the time when my husband hits the road for the band's very long winter tours.  This is a great time of year for them to travel - people have cabin fever and love getting out to see live music.  And I am very supportive of him for this reason.  But no matter how much I prepare myself, it's still a huge adjustment.  He is home much more than usual in November and December, and going from a period of feeling like we have a 'normal' life where we see each other everyday to not seeing each other for several weeks at a time during the first three months of each year is a major transition.  I consider myself to be a very independent person, and I think it's important for partners to spend time apart.  But there is something huge to be said for the comfort and stability that accompanies saying 'goodnight' and 'good morning' in person.  Only getting to see the love of your life for a day or two every few weeks - nonstop for months - isn't easy.

Finally, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to feel especially motivated this time of year, and sometimes it just doesn't work.  Taking time off to be unplugged and invest in real life relationships during the holidays can be incredibly inspiring.  Or it can create challenges.  Sometimes it's easy for me to jump right back into normal life after the holidays, because I feel well rested from a nice, comforting break.  But this year, I am struggling with this.  Although I got lots of time away from work, I don't feel like I had much time to relax.  We left for Mexico for the festival Robbie works there mid-December, and came back a few days before Christmas to crazy rushing around to do holiday shopping and prepare to host family.  Then I came down with the most horrendous case of the stomach flu I'd had in many years on Christmas day, which left me completely bed-ridden for several days.  Toward the end of this illness I hopped a plane to Atlanta for four days for the band's New Year's run.  We flew back to Chicago on my birthday, and then Robbie got very sick for several days.  Between taking care of him, getting our holiday decor put away and house back to normal, and working double time to catch up with work from the last month and get 2012 tax stuff together (boooo), there hasn't been any down time.  And as much fun as I had over the last month's go-go-go, I feel mentally drained.  I bought a pretty new blog planner to try to inspire myself to come up with all sorts of awesome posts for this month, but there isn't much coming to me.  I've sat down to try to (finally) finish the redesign on my clothing line's website, but I end up just staring at the screen.  For the most part, I feel uninterested and just plain blah.

In reality, the best thing I could do for myself would be to take some time off, give my brain and body a rest, and try again.  But this is life, and as we all know, we can't always just hit the pause button.  After so much time away in December, I'm especially behind, and because there are real life things like bills that need to be paid, this isn't a time where I have the luxury of taking more time off.  Conversely, I'm realistic about the fact that I can only force myself to trudge through the yuck for so long before I hit a serious wall.  The truth is that I'm feeling a little negative right now you guys.  We all go through it, and this time of year is usually the time it hits me the hardest.


Because I know that I can't just stop everything and go take a week-long spa retreat or lie on the couch eating chocolate until I feel motivated again, my solution is to create my own positivity within the bounds of the reality of my life right now.  Focusing on the positive aspects of the everyday has always been an effective way of giving myself that extra push to get through the blah periods.  It doesn't solve everything (by any means), but it does guide me along until I reach the other side of the negativity mountain.

In 2010, I lost my best friend/'brother'/ex long-time partner to suicide.  It was the worst time in my entire life.  I went to therapy to try to wade through all of the emotions, and my therapist suggested I start a positivity journal.  Everyday before I went to bed, I wrote down one positive thing that happened that day.  Sometimes it was something big, like an especially successful day for one of my businesses or a feature in a magazine or a new partnership or a vacation.  Sometimes it was small, like nice weather that day or a yummy meal or a healing yoga session or even a full day without a crying spell.  It forced me to look past the dark clouds that covered my days during that time, and when I read back through the entries every few weeks, it allowed me to remember how lucky I was to still have so many good things in my life.  I started a new positivity journal last night. 

Another idea is something I saw on my pal Kate's blog for a good things jar.  You write down good things that happen on little pieces of paper, place them in a jar, and then sit down on New Year's eve and read through all of the wonderful things that happened to you that year.  Although this is a more long-term project, it's still a really great way to pay closer attention to the positive things that happen in your life. 

One final thing I'm going to do to is to make fun plans for the next few months and write them down.  I tend to feel very stuck in January and February, and often just try to 'get through' this time with my eye on the prize (spring!). It's harder for me to visit Robbie on the road in the winter because they don't usually stay in a location for more than one night, so I rarely travel to see him this time of year.  But we're going to sit down together in the next few days before he leaves and figure out how to create a quick trip or two for me to visit.  I'm also going to plan some girls nights with my friends, and a weekend for my sister to come visit. 

Oh - and as much as reality prevents me from taking a major break, I'm going to try not to put massive expectations on myself and give myself a little more time for me.  For the first time in the twelve years since I became a business owner, I gave myself weekends off work in 2012.  It was one of the smartest personal (and business!) decisions I ever made.  This year, at least for now, I'm going to stop working earlier in the evenings too.  And instead of trying to fill that 'free' time with projects around the house or errands, I'm going to try to be a little bit lazy and see what happens.  I think that a huge part of being positive in life is focusing on simple pleasures, and as a 'Type A,' doing nothing is a challenge for me.  But I'm going to make it happen.


If you made it this far, those were today's deep thoughts, my friends.  Thanks for reading.  And what about you?  Do you feel blah this time of year too?  What do you do to create your own positivity?

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40 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful post! I'm opposite you in that the winter months are my strength. But I definitely have my negative times, so this spoke directly to me.

    I love the idea of a positivity journal. I did a focus on gratitude for one month this year and it really opened my eyes at how many little things I overlook. I think it'd be good to do this all year.

    Thanks for being honest and raw; sharing your heart and letting us share ours.
    Catherine Denton

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    1. Gratitude journals are great as well! Focusing on the things we're grateful for in our lives, it allows us to see things in a different, more positive light. Thanks got your comment. :)

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  2. I'm right there with you on this! I never really feel like my holiday vacation is vacation because even though it's a break from teaching it becomes the only time I can catch up on my own business. I also have a terrible time getting through the winter because I am such a warm weather and sun type of girl. It has gotten a little bit better since we moved to Baltimore where winters are shorter, but I still struggle with it so much. I think your plan to be lazy in the evenings and do something for yourself if a great idea! I've been doing that the past few weeks and it has been amazing. I actually put a reminder in my phone for Thursday to be my coffee shop day after I'm done teaching for the day. It's nice to just go get a coffee, read, relax, do whatever I'd like for a few hours until my fiance gets home from work and then I head home too. I think small things like that make all of the difference! Sounds like you have a good plan to surround yourself with friends and family while Robbie is gone too which is great! I hope things keep looking up and spring will be hear before we know it! :)

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    1. I love the coffee shop day idea! It's always good to have something to look forward to.

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  3. I wish you the very best for the New Year Melissa :) And I wish that your goals to create positivity work for the better. They are so much in tune with what I hope to create for myself this new year. Your blog post was a very inspiring read, thanks for sharing :)
    xo

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  4. Melissa, a very well written post that I can identify with!
    I am not a winter person either and getting ill in winter is the worst! Not having your hubby around for days on end must be tough too. But I think it is okay to have phases of negativity. It will pass. I combat this feeling of "blurgh" by consciously doing something nice and uplifting each day...be it a bubble bath, scenting the studio with my favourite lavender essential oil or buying pink flowers (as you've seen on my blog) :)
    And before you know it it's spring time!!
    best wishes,
    Duni

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    1. I think today would be the perfect day to buy some pink flowers. :) Thanks Duni!

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  5. Great post. Even though I am at home with the kids it can get quite stressful providing for the little ones and trying to run the house and somedays I feel like my head is going to explode and on the verge of a major breakdown, I love idea of a postivity Journal. Good luck over the next couple months:))

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    1. Being a mom is a hugely challenging job! I'm sure it gets very stressful. Definitely try the positivity journal - it helps with stress as well. :)

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  6. As strange as this may sound, reading this post made me realize that I actually look forward to January just for the opportunity to be retrospective and that feeling of eagerness to look ahead. It's such a positive time for many just because the craziness of the holidays are over and we approach the new year with optimism - even though some of try do this every day throughout the year, you KNOW there's something about January 1 that gives everything a fresh start. I usually dread the stress that November & December bring and try not to let it take away from enjoy the spirit of the season but sometimes it's rough.

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    1. I can definitely see how you could feel this way! Personally, I've never been very good with the whole New Years resolution thing, and I think that because I feel so much more rejuvenated in the warmer months, I don't really associate January with being a fresh start. My fresh start comes in the spring. :) January actually feels more like an end for me - the end of the holidays (which I love), the end of having my husband at home, the end of a business year where it's time to go over the previous year's records and do taxes, etc. It's crazy and kind of cool how it can mean such different things to different people!

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  7. We're in the thick of the winter blahs here in the Pacific NW. Although it's nothing new (winters here are always dark, cold and wet), but this year has been particularly hard. Possibly because of the whole post-holiday blues as well. Trying to stay positive can be tough, but we try by cleaning out and re-organizing things we've neglected to get a feeling of accomplishment, so when the sun does shine we can be out in it without the feeling of guilt of not dealing with life that piles up when we're rolled up in a ball of misery during the winter months. Thanks for sharing, it's nice to know that beautiful positive people like yourself also goes through these moments in life.

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    1. Cleaning and reorganizing is a great way to stay positive! Admittedly, I usually can't find the motivation to do it until spring. But maybe trying to force myself to get some of it done in the winter will help with the funk. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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  8. UGH. baby girl. I completely feel your pain right now. I have been in a serious funk and I don't even know how to get out of it sometimes. I think writing things down is a great idea, I literally have a hard time motivating myself at all during these months and I feel just like you do. I'm sure it must be extremely difficult for you especially losing someone you care about and resorting back to that but remember that you are strong. and you will get through it, let's hope for summer to come as soon as possible . xo

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    1. Same page! I read something once where a woman had written about how each year, she dies with the winter and is reborn with the spring. I can relate to this so much! It takes extra work in the winter to stay motivated, and when you're already feeling unmotivated, extra work is twice as tough! 70 days 'til spring!

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  9. Have you ever considered that you might have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) ? I think it's something I either have, or that I'm on the brink of having. It's how the lack of melatonin can affect your mood, and it makes me hate Winter so much. I tend to hate November right on through to January but usually when the new year springs around I try to cling onto the positivity from that. I hope you manage to find your own ways to stay positive. Keep your head up :)

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    1. I don't have full-on SAD, although I do have a SAD light I sometimes use (I talk about it in my 'Winter Blues' post linked above), and I'm definitely affected motivation-wise in the short, dark months. I don't get exceptionally depressed or sad, I just feel much less inspired than usual. Exercise and eating well make a big difference too, in addition to focusing on positive things. :)

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  10. Beautiful Post.I always enjoy reading your blog.I'm a New mom...struggling to balance work and family.sometimes it becomes so hard that i feel guilty about not spending all my time with my 3 months old son.I like the idea of positive journal.hope it helps me to get by.I wish the next couple of months will be easy for you :)

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    1. I wish the same for you! And I bet you are an awesome mom. :)

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  11. I love all of this, such truthful words. A few years ago, my therapist at the time was listening to me complain about how winter drags me down and stops me from living fully. Finally, she said she didn't buy it and that winter is cold and dark, yes but listed all of her favorite winter things to do - watch movies more often, cuddle in big piles of blankets, drink hot chocolate, have an excuse to stay in, make specific comfort foods, etc. So I started to keep track of my own 'Winter Wonderful' list and honestly? It was the last winter I complained/felt sad/got stuck. Though to be fair, this winter I am cheating as yesterday I hopped a one-way flight to LA.. but I swear I kind of miss the cold of new york city. Mostly. A little. Sending good vibes to you!

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    1. I love this! Although I must confess that the things I love about winter (cuddling, getting cozy, etc.) make me miss my husband even more. Poor me, I know. ;) But I do think you're on to something. Also, I'm all for the one-way flight to LA. Best winter idea ever.

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  12. I can't even imagine having my hubby leave for that long this time of year!! The only thing I really like about the wintertime months is getting to snuggle up and watch movies and enjoy my time indoors with my sweetie. I think that alone would make this time of year hard for me. I admire your perserverance and positive attitude!

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    1. It is not easy at all. And I can become a huge baby about it after a few weeks of being alone during this time of year. I always try to remember though that missing someone is a good thing. And it makes me appreciate my time with him so much more than I think it would if we got to see each other everyday. (Although eventually, that is the goal! :))

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  13. melissa, grey & cloudy days affect me too, know matter what time of year. i do much better when it's sunny. i'm glad you are taking weekends off, making your evenings free, & planning things to look forward to. the positivity journal & the good things jar are great ideas!

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  14. I have a hard time in January too, part of me feels charged to start anew but part feels tired and overwhelmed by silly pressures I put on myself! Your ideas are really neat, I'm totally starting a positive journal, thank you!!

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  15. I have a hard time in January too, part of me feels charged to start anew but part feels tired and overwhelmed by silly pressures I put on myself! Your ideas are really neat, I'm totally starting a positive journal, thank you!!

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  16. Oh Melissa, I was so glad to see this on your blog today! These are some of my favorite posts of yours--the in-depth, long, confessor-type posts. : ] I know they're not always happy, but I love them just the same.

    I have to say, January doesn't affect me the way it does you. I used to looove the rainy and grey months, but the older I got, the less I liked them. I started pining for days of sunshine and time spent outside. I did notice an effect on my mood too. I'm definitely happier when the sun is shining, which, you know, happens often enough in California, but anyway! I can stand the grey (though I must admit, thoughts of spring flowers and hot summer nights sets me off daydreaming...). I'm not as productive in the Winter because I prefer natural light--and lots of it. But, I don't know that it gets to me in a negative way. I don't fight it. I wait until the creative juices get flowing again, which they inevitably do. I know you have lots of stuff to do, and can't afford to put things off, but maybe you just need a single day. For me, when I try to force something, I get my poorest results. It has to flow naturally. And when it does, I get so much more done! So that's what works for me.

    Maybe it is somewhat mental for you? Like, you know you hate January and February and all that comes with it, so you dread it before it starts, and in turn it sucks because you thought it would. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if that's the case, I would say focus on the positive, which you're already planning to do with your journal, so I say you've got this in the bag. haha : ]

    I look forward to more heart-to-heart posts! And I hope you beat the crap out of the winter blues! ; ]

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    1. I'm glad you like my rambling random thoughts posts! ;) I absolutely think that I dread this time of year before it even starts, almost as if I'm subconsciously preparing myself. I've just never really had a good January, I gotta say. But thankfully, creating positivity makes the time pass a little more smoothly 'til the sunshine finally arrives. :)

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  17. Oh my gosh, wouldn't it be so nice if there actually were a pause button that we could push whenever we wanted? I feel ya!
    And I saw a "good things jar" on another blog (maybe the same one? I'll have to check), and I thought - What a great idea! Something to keep you motivated and keep you positive.
    Good luck with the trying to have some lazy time. It's definitely a hard thing to do when you're not used to it. But hey - maybe that can be something to actually look forward to, and the chilly winter months might be able to help with that.

    =0) Hang in there!

    Kim

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    1. Yes to the pause button Kim! Thanks for the sweet comment, as always. :)

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  18. i totally feel blah this time of year, too. it's like one giant extended gray day...

    June through December is my favorite :)

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    1. June thought December is my favorite too! 100%. :)

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  19. January is a tough month. I sometimes tend to reflect back on the past year and feel sad that I haven't accomplished all that I wanted to. However, I have started a gratitude journal back in April and it's really helped. Reading it back on days I feel down really helps keep things in perspective. Good to for you for starting one, I know it's helped me :)

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    1. I'm glad the gratitude journal has helped you Sandra! :)

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  20. Hey Melissa, I too struggle with the winter blues. I started a gratitude diary this year, it feels good to reflect on the positive aspects of my day instead of the negative before drifting off to sleep.

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  21. I don't mind the winter, but I do mind not having sunlight all day. I hate the days where I get off of work at 5 and it is already dark out. I feel like I should be going to bed already.

    sar=)

    www.etsy.com/shop/owleyevintage

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  22. Hi Melly, I'm also working on manifesting the positive, and sunny 60 degree January days like today definitely help! For me it's a combination of positive thinking, going to the gym (again!!) and yoga. Surrounding myself with amazing friends has helped immensely as well. I love the good thoughts in a jar idea!! So cool. Here's to an incredible year filled with love and light, sister!

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