I like January. I think most mothers do. Sure, it's the dead of winter, and it gets dark ridiculously early, but January has one big thing going for it. It's the "cool down" period following the high-intensity workout of Christmas.
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas and everything it symbolizes. I love the twinkling lights, the shiny ribbons, and the cookies (with calories that didn't count because it was Christmas, thank you very much). But holidays require work. So much work. Christmas requires several months of mental and physical energy for an event -- magical as it may be -- that's over in only two days.
But January is different. It's the post-Christmas coasting period. And it feels so good to coast right now. No more furious pedaling to keep up with the "most wonderful time of the year." No more "jingle around the clock." Just a much-needed rest.
You want to know how many holidays in the month of January require advance preparation? Zero. January is as low maintenance as it comes.
Even though I love the look of Christmas, I must admit I felt relieved to pack away the holiday decorations. It feels like the house has finally calmed down after three straight months of grinning ghosts (October) then pumpkins (November) then an explosion of red and green everything (December). Visually speaking, it's a lot.
I'm not a grinch, and I'll be happy to welcome back the witches, turkeys and tinsel in 10 months' time. But for now, these tired eyes need a rest. Bring on January's clean slate.
Speaking of a clean slate, I should mention the goal-setting elephant sitting smack dab in the middle of the month. Too many of us let New Year's resolutions rob us of the joy of January. Instead of enjoying a slower pace, we ramp things up even more. We discipline ourselves into oblivion. It's a recipe for burnout and failure by February.
But January doesn't have to be a downer. Set goals if you find it inspiring, but it shouldn't feel like a soul-sucking slog. Let the first month of the year be a kinder, gentler time of restoration -- not just resolution.
I spent the first day of this year doing a few of my favorite things. I read. I slept. And I shopped for new pens. (Nerds love any excuse to get fresh office supplies.) Was it exciting? Not really. But I don't need excitement. I've had plenty (along with the cookies). What my overstimulated brain needs now is the return of a regular routine.
Even when Christmas is incredible, it still involves stress. When the brain feels anticipation and excitement, it's called "eustress," which is a positive form of stress. One way to calm down the brain and body is to breathe deeply, letting your exhale be longer than the inhale. It helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is a network of nerves that relaxes the body after periods of stress (even the good kind).
This month is the long exhale we all need. Savor the simple and relish the routine. Not every month needs a pressure-filled project. Here's hoping your January is just right.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected]. Her book is available on Amazon.