An antidote to the January Blues

It’s January. We are back in lockdown. And it’s freezing. If you are anything like me, you will be feeling at a bit of a low ebb (to say the least). If the bombardment of inspirational messages are making you want to hibernate/cry/drink a bottle of wine, then you are not alone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a new year will suddenly mean you feel motivated, energised and ready to take on all of the challenges. I even read somewhere that going into this third lock down we have ‘the gift of knowledge and resilience from the previous two lockdowns on our side’. Hmmm. For me it feels more like I’m going into it much depleted by the past nine months. My reserves of motivation and motherly patience are as shrivelled as my over-washed hands.

So with all of this going on, how can we coax ourselves through the winter months and into a more promising spring?

Below are a couple of the little motivational carrots I’m using to get me through the January Blues.

What I’m listening to

I love podcasts as a means of escape, learning and (dare I say it) inspiration.

I'm absolutely fine
I’m absolutely fine!

I wouldn’t have been able to get through the past few months without The Midult podcast, I’m Absolutely Fine. It is such a tonic to everything. Anabelle and Emilie look at all of the ‘glamour and indignity of being a grown-up’. While also ‘rummaging through the handbags, emotional knicker drawers and lives of some extraordinary people’. I promise you, if you want to feel less like a crazy person this lockdown, this podcast is the medicine you need.

I have also been really enjoying the Louis Theroux Grounded podcast. With such a variety of interviewees, from the hilarious Miriam Margolyes, to Troy Deeney and from Helena Bonham Carter to Frankie Boyle, it is an audio feast! Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail always makes me feel better when I’m feeling down, as does The Scummy Mummies Podcast – both in totally different ways! I also love dipping into The Guilty Feminist, Fortunately…with Fi and Jane and Happy Place as good pick-me-ups.

What I’m reading

Nora Ephron is my go to, whether times are good, bad or ugly. For Christmas I received a series of her essays entitled Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble, which is next on my ‘to read’ list.

I love discovering the back catalogues of long established writers. I have recently stumbled down a Daphne du Maurier black hole. Starting with Rebecca, I moved on to Frenchman’s Creek, followed by My Cousin Rachel, then a series of short stories and most recently I’ve just (yesterday) finished Jamaica Inn. I love her creation of strong and complex female characters and how every book leaves you asking questions. Her short stories in particular really demonstrate her incredible writing craft. She creates whole worlds that you feel draw into and characters you develop feelings for, in just the perfect scarcity of words.

Where the Crawdads Sing

On my more recently published list, I just stormed through Queenie. It is pretty dark and quite sad book in many ways. For this reason I’m not sure I can fairly say that I enjoyed it, but it was a good read. I don’t think the likening of it to Bridget Jones Diary by reviewers is a helpful comparison when setting expectations for tone. However, I did race through it and found myself compelled to pick it up at every spare moment, which is pretty high praise.

I utterly fell in love with the 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing. It is so beautifully written, compelling, evocative, elegant, complex, just everything a good novel should be. If you want a beautiful escape, this is it.

What I’m watching

I think I’m the only person in the world without Netflix, so all recommendations are based on UK free to view channels. For period dramas I’ve been really enjoying Harlots. It’s a raunchy romp through Georgian London, told from the perspective of the prostitutes who courted all classes of Georgian gentlemen. Although originally on Amazon Prime, all series are now available to view on BBC iPlayer. The adaptation of Booker Prize winning novel, The Luminaries, also on iPlayer, was enchanting and really worth a watch. Intricate, beautiful to watch and full of intrigue and magic, it will transport you from 2021 London into another world.

Massively behind the curve, I’ve just started watching I May Destroy You also on BBC iPlayer. I loved Michaela Coel’s interview on Louis Theroux’s podcast and find her work so thought provoking and compelling. Once I finish this, I plant to go back and watch Chewing Gum, also by Coel, which is available on 4OD. Also on 4OD, I love the Walter Presents collection of award-winning foreign-language drama. There are some really gripping crime dramas and psychological thrillers available. Of these I have particularly enjoyed Hotel Beau Sejour, Black Widow, Stockholm Requiem and all three of Vanished by the Lake, Killer by the Lake and Fear by the Lake.

How I’m working out

I’d like to say I’m doing yoga every morning before breakfast, a run every evening and weights every other day. But I’m not.

Juggling lockdown, work and childcare, plus an ever-expanding pregnant belly and the low motivation that comes from freezing cold winter days, I’m allowing myself off the hook, as long as I do something active most days.

Walking in the woods with my girl

This can be a long walk (only possible on the days my daughter is in childcare, because she is at the age of wanting to walk everywhere but being totally incapable of walking any distance at all), yoga (with Boho Beautiful and Sarah Beth Yoga), a little HIIT session or a run. In the golden days of Tier 3 I was also enjoying a couple of swims a week. I hope in due course I will be able to get back in the pool.

For my HIIT sessions I tend to use workouts on Instagram and have found great routines from @ivfitness @emrickettz @laufvernarrt and @hilalleighpilates. I’ve also had a go on my husband’s turbo trainer. I am now debating signing up to the Peloton app for some spin classes.

Ballet Fusion class
Ballet Fusion online class

I am also incredibly lucky that my neighbour and friend is also a pre- and post-natal PT. We have been working together for a while now, originally on my diastasis but now on keeping me vaguely in shape through my pregnancy.

All of this sounds more than I actually feel like I’m doing. I have had days when I’ve not left the house and my daughter and I have spent the time snuggling on the sofa watching Frozen. I count this as being ok too (although on these days my step count is shameful)!

What I’m eating

All of the things! My treats include Pip and Nut peanut butter, Trek bars (especially the peanut butter filled ones) and handfuls of dates and cashews! I’m conscious that my appetite has increased lately with the pregnancy (or at least that’s my excuse). I am trying to keep myself going on whole food, but there are days I just find myself chomping down a flapjack or, as happened the other day, a vegan peanut butter blondie. I know I feel better when I eat well, but I also know that beating myself up for having some treats is counterproductive.

For meals I love cooking from Anna Jones’s books, A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook. I also recently really enjoyed some of the BOL Centrepieces meals (which I reviewed here).

This week I signed us up to DabbaDrop, the zero waste, plant-based take away service. We are scheduled to receive a meal every two weeks of a changing menu. I can’t wait to try it out and report back on how we are getting on!

And when times get bad…

I call my parents. We speak most days now on video chat. I miss spending time with them and my sister so much. When I’m feeling down, I much prefer irony over inspiration from my social media. I follow some excellent Instagram accounts including @mum_and_a_mic @mamastillgotit_ and @kids_and_the_commute, which always make me smile. In the evenings I jump in the bath with a podcast and lock the world out! There are few things a good bubble bath can’t resolve.

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