Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
February 28, 2011    

Digging yourself out of your hole

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Amy Culver

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Digging yourself out of your hole

Every year, no matter how hard I try, I end up spending time in what I call the "January hole."  It's a state of hibernation that is part exhaustion and part depression.  Thank God I live in Arizona!  I'm not sure what I'd do in a colder, darker climate.

Somewhere around the beginning of November, I become very busy getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then in January, I stop being frantically busy and have difficulty getting myself going again.  In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I finally dug myself out of my hole and began feeling energetic again.

Over the years, I have learned that this is not an unusual occurrence and that many people get stuck in the "January hole."  My clients get stuck there and some of my article readers have told me that they get stuck there too.

I don't know if there is a way to completely avoid getting stuck in the hole.  If I find one, I will be sure to let you know.  But there are ways to keep from digging quite so deep and/or staying there quite so long.  The first thing is to recognize that it's not likely that you will be able to avoid it.  I tried that one, also known as denial, for awhile.  It doesn't work, and in fact, it only makes things worse.  If you don't admit it's going to happen, you can't plan for it.

If you're like me and have recently dug yourself out, I strongly encourage you to make notes of what helped you get out.  This will come in handy for next year.  For those who are still stuck, I have some ideas you might try.

Recognize that it is very difficult to climb out of a hole without help.  That's why I use the term "hole" rather than "cave."  I can walk out of a cave, but we generally need a "hand up" to get out of a hole.  The deeper you are in the hole, the darker and harder it is to see clearly.  That is why we often need the guidance and strength of someone we can trust to help us out.  Years ago, I would have difficulty even getting out of bed.  I asked my husband to call me at a certain time each day to make sure I got up.  These days, I don't get stuck that deep, so I need less help.  I make early morning commitments to others, this helps make sure that I get up.  I also allow myself some occasional nap time to get a bit of rest.  I recognize that I am going to have a day off every week or so just for resting.  That's part of recovering from the exhaustion.  I allow it and do my best to plan for it, and then I promise myself that if I take this day off, I will be sure to accomplish a certain number of things the next day.

My next suggestion involves setting and accomplishing goals.  Set small goals, things you know you can complete.  For me, that might mean getting the laundry started, or doing the dishes.  Often, that's all I need to get started, and the next thing I know, a couple of hours have passed and I've gotten a whole list of chores done.  The feeling of accomplishment really lifts my spirits.

Exercise REALLY helps.  Get up, get out, move about and get as much sunshine as you possibly can.  If you live in a northern, darker climate, talk to your doctor about getting an artificial sunlight machine.  Just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference.  Move your body, even if it's just a little.  Take a small walk, or go to the gym for half an hour.  Even if walking slowly on the treadmill is all you do, it will help.  As weather permits, do as much outdoor activity as possible.

Make dates with others, including your spouse.  Plan lunches or dinners, maybe even a weekend away.  This will give you (and others) something to look forward to.

Be careful regarding food temptations.  This is the time that all those treats start looking especially tempting because you are looking for things to make you feel better.  By the way, you've probably noticed that they didn't disappear after the holidays, did they?  They just turned into St. Valentine's Day candy and then into Easter treats.  After that, we'll have Mother's day.  It never ends, so just do your best to steer clear of their siren song.

Most importantly, talk to people around you about it.  You'll likely find, as I have, that you are not alone.  When you talk to others about your own "hole," you give them permission to talk about theirs.  You can help each other.  That will go a long way toward helping you dig your way back up to the sunshine.


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