How is everyone doing since the holiday festivities have ended? Since the new year has begun?
If you’re anything like me, you’re experiencing a crash emotionally, mentally, and physically. Maybe you’re crashing physically after eating all those sweet treats and salty meals you aren’t accustomed to consuming. Maybe you’re crashing physically because all the cold weather makes you feel as though you just need a long, winter’s nap in a warm bed, you know, hibernation. Maybe you’re crashing emotionally after having a euphoric joy or just holding it together through the holidays. Either end of the spectrum can leave one feeling like they’re bottoming out after it’s all over. Maybe you’re crashing mentally after all the planning, preparing, giving the perfect gifts and attempting to create a joyous occasion for your loved ones. Or maybe the holidays just exhaust you because of the loneliness you feel during this time whether it’s from solitude or forced close proximity in uncomfortable family dynamics. Whatever your experience was for the holiday season, many of us feel like we’re crashing when January comes. After the numbing Christmas sedative of go, go, go, and think, think, think, we’re left here, in the middle of the ‘Post-Christmas/New Year’s Yuck’. We reflect back on what just happened with thoughts of how great was that, unresolved issues, family dysfunction and/or what the heck just happened! It’s like laughter and tears collide, and we don’t know what we feel, but it feels like a crash. I have deemed this The January Crash. There’s actually a mental health term for this called S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a fancy name for the winter blues (not quite clinical depression, but it’s a dark place).
Have you experienced the crash? Have you ever wondered why many people experience this crash? Thoughts?
I personally don’t recall ever experiencing a crash quite like I have this year. Honestly, this is new to me. I mean by all outward appearances I should totally be soaring, right?
I have a God that calls me daughter, a family that loves me, a church family that embraces me, a great professional life, and all my needs are beyond met. My new year includes embarking on changes with some great new beginnings. Why in the world would I be crashing? Why would I feel down, spent, empty, irritable, hopeless, isolated, or anxious? Can anyone relate?
I feel like this is something people don’t talk about even though so many experience it. However, I think it’s important to make myself vulnerable, and be transparent here. If no one ever admits we’re going through some darkness, how can we possibly really be on this journey together. The truth is I didn’t want to acknowledge the “crash” and I certainly didn’t want anyone to know I was experiencing it. I’m a women’s ministry leader. I’m the person known as a fighter. You want to hear me talk about overcoming, having strength, and having your identity in Christ. I mean, how could you trust me with your struggles, if I am having my own? How can I pray for others when I myself need prayer? If I have learned one thing, it’s that if you wait until you don’t need prayer yourself, you will never reach out and pray for others. I’m trusting God’s strength in my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 comes to mind.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Since it’s new to me, the cause of the “crash” is provoking some thought. What about you? Do you have thoughts or ideas on why you think so many of us crash in January?
Winter Weather, Darker Months/Shorter Days – So the most obvious and most common recognized reason for the January Crash (S.A.D.) is the lack of sunlight. Physically our bodies miss it. There seems to be so much darkness. Add to that freezing cold, and you have the perfect weather to feel BLAH! At least it makes sense for why we feel like we should hibernate. Turns out being inside without getting fresh air tends to make the crash worse. How do we overcome this cause? Suggestions: Bundle up and go out for a walk, exercise, try bright light therapy, look out the window, get on a regular sleep schedule, eat a balanced diet, etc. Scripture tells us that we should take care of our bodies (1 Corinthians 3, 6, 10; Romans 12). This will help overcome the physical part of the January Crash.
Disappointments, Unmet Expectations & Broken Resolutions – We expect our holiday to go a certain way. We expect our new year to go a certain way. We make resolutions which typically fall to the wayside in great haste. Expectations themselves are not bad, but what we expect and from whom makes all the difference in the world. What if we changed our expectations to reflect God’s word and God’s will? What if I went to the Lord with what I want and then quietly listened or watched as He has His way. I don’t think I can feel angry or sad about God doing things His way knowing that His word says he works all things for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). Transparency time…I expected to be going another direction in ministry starting in January. I know that the direction I thought I was going is my calling. I have no doubt that the Lord has planted the seed in my heart to grow something amazing for His glory. I was overwhelmed with excitement about it. My pastors and I prayed about it, and we all felt it was the direction God had for me. I was bubbling over with His word and I could hear His voice more clearly than I had in a long time. I had the passion, the energy, and the support. And then…the Lord spoke and said, “Not yet.” Now isn’t the time. After praying, discussing it with my husband, and both of us praying more, it became clear the timing was wrong. I had gotten ahead of God. I was so embarrassed and a bit heartbroken, but I trust Him wholeheartedly. So even though I had shared where I was going and this great plan that God had spoken into my life, I had to back down in humility and admit I ran ahead of Him. It was definitely an unmet expectation that brought sadness, but as God has proven in the past, down the road it will be revealed why now is not the time. So maybe that’s part of the January Crash, unmet expectations and disappointments. Statistically, January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. By this time, our resolutions are neglected, and all the bills come due from the great gifts that were purchased. The excitement we felt giving the gifts has dissipated. More disappointment. So how do we overcome this? What if we adjust our expectations? What if all our hopes and dreams begin with our faith in God? Something my husband says and he recently reminded me, “Believe by faith AND acknowledge God.” We first have to have faith, but we have to acknowledge God in all things. That means admitting our need for Him. That means placing all hope and expectations for our future in Him and His power in our lives. Scripture references: Isaiah 30:18, 40:31, 41:10; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 39:7, 62:5; Mark 9:23; John 10:10; Romans 5:2-5, 8:24-25; Hebrews 11:1
Post Family Syndrome – As I mentioned before, sometimes decompressing after spending extended time with a less than perfect family, can cause an emotional crash. Anyone relate to this? Personally, I struggle with my relationship with my mother. I love her and I know she loves me, but we haven’t been able to connect in over a decade because of different beliefs and perspectives. Now I see the dynamic negatively affecting my daughter, and I just feel sad and heartbroken. I love the time I spent with my grandmothers and feel so blessed to still have them in my life. After the fact, the reality of the pace of aging sets in, and the thought of losing these amazing women just hurts my heart, not to mention my own mortality becoming very real. Looking too much into the past or the future can really take us into a dark place. Isaiah 43:18-19 (MSG) comes to mind, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” We shouldn’t dwell in the past, and we have to trust the Lord for our future. Be present in the present. You can’t change what’s happened. Find the joy right in the when and where you find yourself now. If this place is less than desirable, learn to say, “It won’t always be this way.” Because it will not always be this way. That’s just plain truth!
Self-focus – Personally, I have discovered the biggest cause of the January Crash or even any unhappiness or loss of joy comes from a focus on self. While it’s important to take care of ourselves, if we start to focus too much on ourselves, we will most certainly find all the negative and spiral downward. Oh how often are we our own worst enemy! I found myself in the middle of this realization recently. Many of us feel the urge to make resolutions for a new year. However, lots of times, those resolutions are about self, and when we fail that leaves us embracing an identity of failure. At the beginning of a new year, we tend to take inventory of the year before and our lives in general. Recently, I heard a quote that really resonated with me. “Wondering if you’re happy is a great shortcut to being depressed.” Is it not the truth? How often do we stop to look at our lives only to think, “What if?” or “I wish…”. I believe this often leads to the next steps into the pit, regret and comparison. Regret is as much a waste of time and energy as worry. Nothing good comes from it. Comparison will always lead to discontent and a loss of joy. We may even start to mourn the chapters of our lives that are closed and even fear new chapters beginning. It’s important to remember every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end. Some doors open, and some doors close. There can be joy in both as long as we know and trust the One in control. I think this goes back to what my husband said to me, “Believe by faith AND acknowledge God.” Who’s in control here anyway?
The last two causes go hand-in-hand in a way. They’re both due to a loss of focus. Our focus should be on our Lord and our service to Him, but all too often we get hyper-focused on ourselves. As Philippians 4:8 says, we are to think on things that are righteous, praiseworthy, true, wholesome, divine, and admirable. These are all just words to describe our Father, not so much words that describe me. This chapter goes on to say in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” There’s a directive and an outcome. This is the way to overcome a hyper-focus on ourselves. We overcome by thinking on Him.
Staying focused on the Lord in prayer (speaking AND listening), reading His Word, and staying connected to our sisters in Christ are key. We all know this, but what does that look like in our day-to-day?
What if we set some goals for right now, right where we find ourselves? Knowing some of the causes, do you have ideas for some goals to overcome the Crash? Here are some ideas I thought of and plan to implement immediately.
Stop doing one thing that you don’t enjoy or causes you undue stress. This could include setting some new boundaries in an unhealthy relationship or stop being overly sensitive to things out of your control. The song “Rock & Roll” by Eric Hutchinson says, “She can roll with the punches as long as she feels like she’s in control.” Let’s learn to roll with the punches and acknowledge we’re not in control. Learn to say, “I can’t change this, and that’s okay.”
Clean out one area of your home. De-cluttering your physical space is incredibly freeing even if it’s just a small space like a desk or a closet. Donating items to the Free Store or another charity that touches your heart is a great source of joy. This takes the focus off ourselves and encourages us to think on the needs of others. Ask you the question, “Do I really NEED this in my life?”
Try something new. Do something you never do or have never done. Maybe you never cook; then cook a new recipe. You never do crafts; make something. You never dance; then have a personal dance party. As King Harvest says, “You can’t dance and stay uptight” (Dancing in the Moonlight). Paint, go to a fitness class, use your left hand, or find something completely out of your norm on Pinterest, and then actually do it. Challenge yourself intellectually. Or maybe you never do a daily devotional, try reading a short devotional every day for a month.
Make a list of lessons learned. This helps us remember just how far we’ve come without focusing on the negativity of the past. Seeing the brighter side of things means remembering you have overcome seasons of darkness before. Take a step further and make a blessings or gratitude jar. When you start feeling like you’re crashing, go to the jar to remember what the Lord has done for you.
Spend time just enjoying friends. Take a time out to spend with friends. It doesn’t need to be a grand plan or an amazing adventure. Just sit and enjoy coffee and dessert together. Be spontaneous with your encounters. When the darkness seems to creep in, reach out to a trusted friend. We tend to think weird things in a vacuum. So isolation is not a good place. Reach out to an old friend and re-connect. Sometimes just getting together with friends and laughing can make all the difference. Impromptu get-togethers are the best! Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones (NKJV).” Sprinkle your month with love and laughter with friends. Only good can come from the time spent.
Go to the light. Physically this could mean light therapy whether it’s going out when the sun is out or spending time in front of a light box. Spiritually, we have access to the brightest light therapy, the light that comes from the Son. Isaiah 42 the Lord says, “I will turn darkness into light and make the rough places smooth…I will not forsake them.” As sons and daughters of the King, we have access to endless light, and where light exists darkness cannot endure. As the Word says in 1 John 1:5, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” I truly believe that this is an imperative element in overcoming the January Crash. This one goal can set us free from the darkness. Being in God’s presence makes all the difference, and while it’s important to be a part of a body of believers, you can also experience the light of His presence wherever you find yourself. Having a quiet moment to just call on the Holy Spirit is the ultimate light therapy. As the song Freedom Reigns (Jesus Culture) states, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
I know this is a lot to take in, and I hope I haven’t lost you in the heaviness. When it’s all said and done, remember Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This is another directive that will free us from the January Crash. Seek God with ALL your heart. This means holding NOTHING back, and giving complete access to EVERY area of our lives. This leads to living passionately AND in obedience. It all starts with prayer, reading and serving, but it’s all for nothing if we’re not seeking God with ALL our heart, nothing hidden. This is a commitment. My husband gave me a great formula for achieving this level of commitment to God, ‘persistence + determination = successful, healthy commitment’.
I believe if we’re all honest about what we’re going through and keep our focus, we will not only get through the January Crash, but we can come out the other side stronger and with a clearer perspective. We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11)! Believe by faith and acknowledge God!
From The Ash Heap with love!
©2018 Amanda Bordner