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Causes of January Stress

January —The Most Stressful Month of the Year?


Updated December 29, 2009

January is one of the most stressful months of the year. This may come as a surprise, because the holiday season is notoriously stressful. Many people expect a reprieve from the stress once the holiday season is over, and to a certain extent, we get it: no more holiday shopping, house guests, travel plans and a ridiculously busy schedule. In January, however, a new set of stressors comes in full force. Here are some of the stressors we face in January, which make it a heavy contender for Most Stressful Month of the Year:
  • Resolution Stress:
    Every January, throngs of people take advantage of the fresh start of a new year to set goals and resolutions for themselves in an effort to lead a better life. This is a commendable pastime, but it can also lead to stress. Those who quit smoking can start to feel the stress of nicotine withdrawal and the need for new coping skills. Those who are trying to fit in to their "skinny" jeans may be feeling the emotional stress of those first few days without carbs. Even new exercisers may be feeling tired and cranky if they’re overdoing it. And then there’s the stress that comes from taking on too many new habits at once, and letting our inner perfectionist beat us up when we slip up. New Year’s resolutions can lead to fantastic new habits, but those first few days can lead to significant January stress. (See this article for help with managing New Year's Resolution stress, or this article on maintaining resolutions with less stress.)

  • Holiday Hangover:
    I’m not talking about a literal hangover from alcohol. I’m talking about the worn-out, let-down feeling that many of us get when the fun of an exciting month (December) is over. After the holiday parties, visits with loved ones, gift-exchanging and delicious food of December are in the near past, we’re left getting back to work (with plenty to catch up on!), cleaning house (after house guests and holiday celebrations took their toll), dieting (those holiday sweets add up!) and assessing the damage to our bank accounts. Part of January stress is dealing with post-holiday blues.

  • Money Stress:
    While many people think of March and April as the stressful money months because of tax season or December as a stressful money month because of holiday shopping, January is a very stressful money month for both reasons! In January, people are just realizing that they may have overspent on the holidays (and may be surprised by how much!), and they’re starting to look ahead to tax season. Given that this is a particularly rough time for the economy, the money stress of this January may be worse than usual for many, many people. (See this article for help with money stress.)

  • Relationship Troubles:
    Another surprising truth about January is that it’s a rough month for relationships. Seemingly innocuous, January is actually the Perfect Storm, as far as relationships are concerned, for several reasons. Stress can greatly impact a relationship, so it follows that a stressful month such as January would take a toll on many relationships. Money stress tends to have a particularly heavy impact on relationships, and January has plenty of that. Also, if that weren’t enough, January falls after the holiday season and before Valentine’s Day, so both people who didn’t want to ruin the holidays with a breakup and people who don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone they don’t truly love (or don’t want to be the jerk that dumped someone right before Valentine’s Day) will likely choose January as the month to end a relationship that is struggling. (See the Relationship Stress section of this site for help with the stress of relationship conflict and for help with maintaining healthier relationships.)

Help Is Here

With stressors piling up in January, there’s no better time to get serious about stress management. Fortunately, this site is filled with useful, free resources that can help you get a handle on stress, no matter what the cause. Visit the Stress Management Blog; it brings you bite-sized bits of stress management insight in daily, digestible pieces. Sign up for the free weekly newsletter, take a free e-course or use the Stress Reliever Personality Quiz as a starting point for the journey to a less-stressed January, and a more serene year after that. You can also discuss your stressors in the Stress Management Forum, and use these other ongoing stress reduction resources to learn healthy ways to manage stress in the coming year.

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