At this time of year, as the nights draw in and the cold gets - well, colder - even the cheeriest amongst us can fall prey to the winter blues. Niggling worries, pesky negative thoughts, or just a general sense of "bluishness" can be trickier to shake off than in the lazy hazy days of summer, and just occasionally we can find ourselves floundering in the (metaphorical) murky waters of a wintery night...
On one such recent night, somewhat out of sorts myself, I had a bit of a "beacon of light" epiphany. No parting of the heavens, no musical crescendos (disappointingly; N.B. to be rectified for the movie version), but it got me out of a temporary mental rut and back on track in a "cos this is who I am and why I'm here" sort of way - always a favourable road to be on. The precise nature of my illuminating moment isn't of the greatest significance, dear reader... but if for no other reason than to satisfy curiosity, it took the form of a well known actor's inspirational insight into his (and my) profession. Suddenly I was back in the zone and back on course, mood lifted and game face on. A mini-moment: simple yet effective.
But this got me to thinking. If one little incident could "save the day" in such a way, what did this say about greater guiding lights in our lives? People in the darkest of times often report a particular focus, motivation or cause which saw them through, as famously testified in Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (in essence: those who endured longest and strongest in Nazi concentration camps tended to be those with strongly driven reasons to get out and live on). In the wake of a bereavement a family may fight for legal change or set up a charity in commemoration of their loved one, or an individual may find the strength to conquer illness by harnessing the inspiration of goals yet unfulfilled.
Admittedly, the day-to-day rock pools of the general winter doldrums may not be of the same magnitude as these perilous waters, but the fact remains that a guiding light of hope and inspiration can only strengthen our long-term resilience to the general ebbs and flows of life.
So my question to you is this:
What guides you away from the rocks, and back into your path of light? What is, for want of a better analogy, your lighthouse?
To get your brains a-whirring, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Family and friends: from mothers to lovers, "sistas" to "bruvvas", relationships with our nearest and dearest radiate a warm sustaining glow throughout our lives.
- Passions and pastimes: whether it's tinkering with the motor or training for the marathon, our favourite activities keep us shining and happy, whatever the weather.
- Career "plus": I call this career "plus" because it's got that extra bit of sparkle that makes our vocation more than "just a job" and causes us to leap out of bed of a morning. (Ok, perhaps not every morning, but at least more often than not.)
- Community: easy to overlook in the age of technology, but getting out and engaging with others is pretty darn important for our mental and emotional health and well-being - we're human after all, not robots, and finding some kind of personal connection can really brighten up our day.
- Health: some people find huge motivation and satisfaction in staying fit and healthy. It doesn't mean they can't have a cookie (or three) now and again, but feeling good and doing a reasonable job of looking after number one doesn't half make things seem sunnier.
- Helping out: doing things for others not only lights up our own life with meaning, but it helps illuminate the way for others too.
- Pets and pooches: looking after an animal can really help you stay on track - dogs in particular are great for love, fun and silliness - plus having anything that depends on you for the next meal is a pretty surefire way to ensure you stay on the lighted path!
So, over to you: what's your shining light?
You might have one; you may have several. And they need not be fixed: new beacons may materialise and others could disappear entirely or re-emerge in new and exciting forms.
But one thing's for sure...
There'll always be at least one steadfast lantern calling you home.
Katherine Press is an actress, writer and self-help junkie. Her acting credits include Stephen Poliakoff's acclaimed BBC/Starz series Dancing on the Edge, Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger, and Ophelia in Trevor Nunn's production of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (West End). Earlier this year she was seen as guest lead "Elise" in the final ever episode of Foyle's War (Episode 3: "Elise").
This post was first published in her Actor In Search Of A Life blog.