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Don’t fall for the January guilt trip

An Cailín Rua

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

A heads up, in case you feel like planning a duvet day: The zenith of the January Blues, Blue Monday 2020, will swing around this Monday, January 20.
A few years back, the idea emerged that the third Monday in January should be awarded this gloomy title, supposedly due to a combination of the post-Christmas blues, the short dull days, the cold, and of course, the arrival of the post-Christmas credit-card bill.
The idea grew legs, supposedly granted credence by an academic claiming to have used a mathematical formula. Naturally, it turned out to be a PR stunt generated to encourage people to book holidays to cheer themselves up, but despite it being utter bunkum, the title has stuck.
I don’t know about the readers of The Mayo News, but I love January. I adore it. I see it as a time not to dread the post-Christmas downer, nor as a time for deprivation or austerity, but as an opportunity to turn over a fresh page, plan out the months ahead, try to get back into good habits and embrace the opportunities that a new year brings. (And it means the football is back, which is no bad thing.)
Perhaps this optimism stems from the fact that unlike many, I found myself in the privileged position of being able to take a long break over Christmas. And if I’ve learned one thing as I’ve gotten older, it’s the importance of taking time out, and the importance of self-care in general.
Self-care, however, doesn’t simply mean going on a diet in January; I remember writing a column this time last year about the rubbish ‘wellness’ marketing that bombards people – mostly women – in January. And if anything, it feels even worse this year.
Pre-Christmas, we’re encouraged to throw caution to the wind, treat ourselves to all the chocolate and wine and gigantic turkey dinners in the world, and seven days later, we’re being told we’re fat (like this is a bad thing) and we need to shape up. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s essentially the bottom line. And let’s not forget, that while the nature of capitalism is that businesses respond to demand, a large portion of the wellness industry is there to capitalise on these feelings of inadequacy and make money from us.
So don’t fall for it. Keep your fat pants on, try and love who you are, and if you want to make changes, don’t just do so because someone on the TV made you feel guilty or bad about your body; make them for the right reasons, because then you’re more likely to stick with them.
Despite my affection for January, I don’t really make resolutions anymore, because I am weak and don’t believe in setting myself up for failure. Over the break, however, on the advice of a friend, I did look back and write a list of things I had achieved last year. It was a short list, but I got to the end of the year alive and intact, so am counting that as an achievement.
I also wrote down a few things I want to achieve this year, and I went a step further and wrote down how I would achieve them, and broke that down by week and month. Then I bought a new notebook and a calculator. But I hope that breaking things down, rather than making short-term resolutions, easily dropped, will instead by virtue of repetition result in the creation of better everyday habits. And if nothing else, I can at least say I have a plan.
More importantly, I put some time in the diary for the year ahead to commit to investing in the simple things. Taking more days off, working less overtime, spending time with loved ones, sleeping more, enjoying the odd treat. And not sweating the small stuff and reflecting often with gratitude on the good stuff.
Blue Monday will come and go, but there is a long year ahead, with all the potential that brings. That said, if booking a holiday will help get you through it, then do just that if you can!  
Happy new year. I hope the 12 months ahead are happy, healthy and enriching ones for you all.