The 9 Challenges Of January – Part 1

The 9 Challenges Of January – Part 1

by Dr Emma Gray - 21st January, 2019

If December is the ‘season to be jolly’, January is the season to be depressed. Hot on the heels of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is the most emotionally and psychologically challenging.

At The British CBT & Counselling Service requests for therapy triple in January with people feeling more depressed and anxious than at any other time. So why is this time of the year so difficult?


The first four of these reasons seem to be directly related to Christmas and its fall out:

1. Family time
At Christmas we often find ourselves spending an extended period of time with our family, and as no one has an uncomplicated relationship with those closest to them, Christmas will always present challenges.

On the flip side, if your relationship with your family is complex in the sense that you do not spend the time with them, this creates another whole set of challenges that will need to be negotiated. Either way, there will always be fall out to deal with in January which can leave the best of us feeling anxious, depressed and generally unsettled.

2. Unstructured time
As a species we like routine, it makes us feel safe, it is a way of creating predictability and order and helps us to feel in control. At Christmas we take time off work and swap our routine for days, often weeks, of unstructured time.

Our days can easily become focus-less and without a sense of purpose and achievement we can be left feeling lethargic and unsettled. Unstructured time also creates space for rumination and worry, a recipe for anxiety. Despite returning to our routine in January, for some this unstructured time may have stirred up dormant fears and doubt that are harder to dismiss when faced with the other challenges that January presents.

3. Unmet expectations
At Christmas we are expected to have such a wonderful time, the media is saturate with images of people enjoying themselves surrounded by equally merry friends and family. If this is not our experience we can be left feeling anxious and isolated from others, as if there is something wrong with us.

This feeling can often be hard to shake off come January and is frequently the reason for plummeting self-esteem and accompanying feeling of self-doubt and depression in this month.

4. Anti-climax
And when it is all over, despite all of the challenges of Christmas, it is still all over and this reality brings with it at best feelings of deflation and flatness, at worst straight forward depression.

In addition to the fall out of Christmas, January presents us with some additional psychological challenges, these will be looked at in part 2 of this blog. Click below to navigate.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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