December is my mental slump month. I recently posted about the top triggers for holiday anxiety, but to be honest, holiday anxiety is not something I struggle with throughout the month. But my “December Blahs?” They’re definitely a struggle and always have been.
Though I’ve never been formally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood definitely shifts after Thanksgiving. The husband often catches it before I do. This year, I started feeling it earlier than usual. For me, it shows up as complete lack of motivation and willingness to engage. That’s the first symptom. I know from past history that if I let it linger there, I’ll take a deeper dive into true depression.
Last week, I made a trip to the library to load up on some fun holiday reading. As I gathered my stack of no less than seven books, I had this sudden despairing thought that it seemed like such a task to start a new book. Listen – new books bring me so much joy, so that thought was definitely an alert for me. When things that I consider fun stop feeling fun, that’s a sign that my mood is starting to tank.
At that moment, I realized I needed to take a step back and slow it down. I made no plans to fight the lack of motivation with excess activity, to beat my brain and body into submission like I used to. Instead, I came to the realization that for the rest of December, I’m committing myself to erasing to-do items off my lists. I’m not going to fight the blah. Instead, I’m going to recognize it for what it is, and re-adjust my expectations of myself.
This is a difficult mindset shift for me. I like to fill my schedule, I thrive with activity and overscheduling, and I love to have a thousand different plates spinning at one time.
Not for the rest of December.
Honestly, if you think about it, this is the time of year when we should be slowing down. A friend of mine, commiserating with me on this topic, told me, “I should be hibernating right now. But I have so much to do.” Don’t we all feel it, on some primitive level? We should be going to bed earlier, doing less, conserving energy, eating stored food, gathering around the fire with our tribe…. not this rush of complete excess that happens right now with the lists and the baking and the craft-making and the gift-taking.
So if you’re feeling like I am, and you are hitting your slump, give yourself permission to say no. Give yourself permission to take items off your list. Sure, we have presents to wrap and parties to attend and houses to clean and work to do, but there’s no rule that we have to do it all at a crazy, unsustainable pace.
It’s likely that nobody is expecting as much from you as you expect from yourself. Adjust your expectations. I’m repeating this phrase to myself right now: “bare minimum.” It’s the weirdest mantra I’ve ever adopted, and it’s so contrary to my natural state, but I need it. I need to allow myself the grace and space to do the bare minimum, no more and no less.
For those of you who thrive during this time of year, you should’ve stopped reading this a long time ago. Keep doing your thing, spreading Christmas cheer. We need it!
For the worn out, the grieving, the tired, the emotionally healing, the seasonally shaken – I feel you. I’m right here with you.
Aside from my “bare minimum” mantra, the other thing keeping me grounded and sane right now is the idea of hope. Hope for New Life, spurred on by the birth of a Savior, the one who will understand this deep sorrow and longing more than anyone else ever could. I don’t journey alone. I’m not capable of restoration on my own. I need that baby in the manger to make things right. To bring me peace, the kind that doesn’t make sense. This verse hit me recently: “Now hope that is not seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
So I wait. And I stay grounded, rooted in hope, knowing that renewal is right around the corner. We will make it through this busy time. And my hope for you is that your eyes will be opened to a new way of doing things, a way that grounds you and fills you with peace in the midst of the chaotic season.