Blue Monday

It’s dark out there. And it comes as no surprise that the second week of January contains what’s known as ‘blue Monday’ as we struggle to set aside the lights of Christmas and as resolutions start to fail. Add to that the continuing challenges of a global pandemic and it stands to reason that demotivation and despondency are in charge right now.

Light at the end of the tunnel is something we all seek, now more than ever. This particular tunnel has been long and dark and scary. And all too often those small glimmers of light dwindle before we can reach them. So we trudge onwards, heads bowed, feet dragging.

My granny used to shrug her (tiny but formidable) shoulders if I was to complain about something, saying “Haven’t you got two legs?” This wasn’t helpful at the time but I can see her point. Wellness advice suggests we show gratitude, but this can induce guilt – I should be grateful for what I’ve got – and the resulting comparative empathy is not good. Gratitude and mindfulness can be useful but if guilt grows around them it turns out to be counterproductive. It’s okay to say how you feel and find someone who will validate those feelings. Asking for help is courageous.

And right now, as winter bites and January shocks us awake, it’s more and more difficult to look ahead with hope. But I wonder if hibernation is a possible answer. I’m a winter person. I love the rain, sitting by the fire, reading a book while wrapped up in a blanket. Most of all I love the excuse to hide and lie low. “I’m wintering just now,” is a frequent refrain as I take lessons from nature and stop rushing around. In fact, hibernation itself is a wonder – hedgehogs are smart little beasts. This state of inactivity slows heart rates and breathing, lowers body temperatures and metabolism. If only humans could do the same during the winter months allowing us to emerge with the spring flowers ready to dance once again.

But life is not that kind and humans have created rules and responsibilities that simply won’t allow us to stop, no matter the season. Even hibernating hedgehogs have to get up now and again to look for food or respond to danger, so we can learn from them and hide just a little bit, without guilt. We can find comfort in warm blankets and warm drinks, seek togetherness with loved ones, search for good news stories among the murk of bad news, jump in puddles and never mind the wet socks.

Our darkness right now is both seasonal and personal. We are all weary. And it’s okay to admit it. Find your inner hedgehog and curl up somewhere warm and safe. And one day the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom and life will welcome you home.

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