As we emerge into a New Year, bleary eyed and three boxes of Quality Street down, the long cold months of January and February looming ahead can seem like a daunting prospect. To some people anyway. I happen to love this time of year. Once the crowds return home and the incessant consumerism ceases, this month arrives as a much-needed pause – an opportunity for rest which I’ve always found refreshing after the decadence and debauchery of December. No forced fun, no five gold rings, no mulled wine or mince pies. Time to breathe.
Of course, there’s the small matter of heading back to work after two weeks of binging and watching box sets. Getting up in what feels like the middle of the night and hauling yourself into the office is never easy – but in spite of the unwelcome crash back to reality, January is still a time for quiet contemplation and much needed rejuvenation. Unlike most normal people, I adore the cold, dark evenings – it’s as if they were made for curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a packet of hobnobs and a brooding Scandinavian thriller
From now until March, my free time is just that – free. I plan to read the books that have been on my bedside table for the best part of a year, to take long walks and listen to podcasts – to rest, the way nature intended.
Rest, I should specify, isn’t code for being lazy or doing sod all. It’s not about lying on the sofa gawping at Bargain Hunt because you can’t be bothered to change the channel. It’s intentional. It could mean slowly stirring a risotto to enjoy with a glass of wine, instead of darting into Tesco Express, picking up a ready meal and shoving it in the microwave before diving back into your emails. It doesn’t mean staying in bed all day or never exercising. It means recognising when and how you need to unwind and doing exactly that. That might mean a jog through the park one frosty morning or a night in with a novel (probably more likely to be the latter…)
Intentionally investing in rest – not seeing it as an indulgence but a necessity – is integral to our health, both physically and mentally. Any athlete training for an event will tell you rest days are just as important as high energy workouts – the body must recover if it is to get stronger. If we work hard and don’t take the time to enjoy quality rest, we’ll eventually break.
I feel remarkably better if I am well-rested. I’m more pleasant to be around too: don’t snap at my husband, am more patient, more decisive, my skin looks healthier, I feel energised and alert. My mind, which so often whirrs as I try to go to sleep, feels content and calm if I’ve managed to wind down. Rest also makes me better at all the things I do during unrest – I can work more effectively, write more eloquently, even read more efficiently. Some people believe stress and overwork are the keys to success, but I think rest is equally important. What’s the point in climbing the mountain if you don’t get to stop and appreciate the view?
When it whooshes in, ripping away the tinsel and wiping out the cobwebs, January offers the perfect time to invest in our rest. It’s a glorious yet underrated time of year during which we are given full permission to take care of ourselves after a month of binge drinking and boxed chocolates. For me, it’s not about dieting or re-inventing myself – it’s about being kinder to myself and recognising when rest is required.
Nature too, is enjoying a much-needed break. Colours are muted and trees are bare, but if you manage to pull on your jumper and venture out to the park, you’ll see snowdrops are beginning to break through the undergrowth – the first sign spring is on its way.
Soon daffodils will be swaying in the breeze and delicate cherry blossom will adorn all the trees. Soon the sun will sit higher in the sky and days will be longer. Soon you’ll barely be able to walk through the streets of Soho without rubbing shoulders with beer swigging suits enjoying after-work drinks in the sun. Soon the leaves will start to crisp up again, turn amber and fall from the branches. Soon blackberries will bejewel the hedgerows and the air will turn crisp.
Soon it will be Christmas once more and the chaos will ensue again. But now nature rests – and so should we.