Many people find this time of the most gruelling of the year - grisly grey weather, Christmas a distant memory and fully entrenched in the day-to-day grind. The media have coined the term 'Blue Monday' to describe the feeling that can overwhelm us mid-January. January is meant to be the first month of a blossoming new year, but for many of us it throws a spotlight on all the aspects of our life we aren't satisfied with.
I understand that feeling. Until the age of 35 I was living a life when the prospect of work filled me with dread, and the prospect of a new year dawning was not filled with positive emotions. I was earning a good salary for negotiating the day-to-day politics of a senior corporate job, married to an older man who gave me security but didn't let me be me and generally living the life I thought was expected of me. I wasn't happy but I was filled with too much fear to change my circumstances.
Then the proverbial 'three bad things' happened and change was forced upon me. I lost my illustrious job, divorced my husband and was back at home living with my parents. All this pushed me into making a big decision - I left the UK to spend a year in Australia. During that time, I re-evaluated my previous choices and decided to face my fears and try to make choices based on what I believed would bring greater happiness. Having wiped the slate clean, the next chapter fell into place - I met my husband, moved to France and began a new life as a blogger.
For once, I had given myself permission to be loved, happy and fulfilled. I also tackled some of the reasons for my poor choices in the past. I sought out therapy which enabled me to tackle some past pains. Ironically it also triggered the need to write my first set of books, The Ugly Little Girl. Somehow getting connected with myself released all sorts of memories that inspired me to write a story about a little girl like me, a freaky geek, who discovers a magical night school for self-esteem.
I was lucky (though I didn't think so at the time). The pain I had to go through resulted in a positive transformation. I no longer experience the 'Blue Monday' feeling. Now I greet the start of the year and return to work with hope and expectation. Looking back, I wish I could have made these life changes myself without the universe having to slap me in the face. My personal crisis resulted in a better life. But it would be great if more people were able to change their lot, without getting to meltdown point like I did. For anyone who is in questioning their relationship, job, lifestyle, here is what I wish I could have told my younger self:
-If you have a hunch, listen to it. We generally know when something is not right. Our subconscious will send us signals. They can be physical symptoms such as discomfort, stomach troubles or headaches. There are also the more intangibles - an excessive panic response to life's challenges. I used to meltdown if I thought I had lost my keys for just a minute.
-If you're unhappy but are not certain of what you can do to change it, make some positive 'intentions'. They say thoughts become words and that they in turn become actions, and then habits. One of my original intentions was to find love again following my divorce. I said it every day for six months and then I met my husband.
-Counselling or therapy can be a useful tool and shouldn't be shied away from. I used to think that it was only for the deeply disturbed, but now I couldn't recommend it enough. It is a safe one-to-one conversation that objectifies and identifies problems, so you can deal with them.
-Nurture your passions. I adored writing stories as a child but stopped when the pressures of school work and exams took over. I always knew something was missing. My beloved Dad told me so but I didn't want to hear it. Now I jump up in the morning knowing the thing I love doing most is my job. It took a while to make it happen and there was a transition phase of doing consulting work to help fund it. But I made the leap. If you have a secret yearning to sing, garden, climb or cook, start doing it in your spare time. Not making any time to do the things we love can be destructive, and you never know where a hobby or passion might lead.
-Be kinder to yourself. Instead of kicking off your year with a punitive diet and exercise regime, try to combine healthy eating with incentives and treats you can look forward to. Starting your year in 'denial' mode doesn't encourage a positive frame of mind. Try to fill your plans with 'do's' instead of 'don'ts'. Take up a new sport, plan a trip to somewhere you've always wanted to go. Above all, try to cut out the negative vibes, avoid high stress situations and surround yourself with people and things that nourish you.