On feeling overwhelmed by January

Can we just all agree, unanimously, to put a pause on January? Wouldn’t that be nice – just to have a couple of weeks of zero time, an empty space with neither Christmas nor New Year Resolutions – so we can all catch up with ourselves before the year begins?

I don’t think I can be the only one to feel that January is causing me to feel – well, overwhelmed is something of a euphemism – frazzled is probably more like it.

You’ve felt it, too – haven’t you? That this year there were definitely fewer days in December than normal. January came more quickly than ever. That’s how it has felt, and now the New Year treadmill has started and I’m left scrambling to adjust the speed setting.

It’s the 13th of January, and I have a list the length of my elbow of thank you letters that need to be written, and emails that need a reply that are so far down my inbox they are in danger of being lost forever.

I was ill over the holidays, which gave me lots of time to think and dream up some dreams, but not to actually DO. I started January with more things than ever that I wanted to accomplish this year. I watched the hundreds of One Word 2015 blog posts fly past me in the final days of December, and wished I could be that organised, or decisive so as to know what I should be focusing on. I don’t have my One Word for 2015 – instead, I have a thousand words, swirling round my head like a cloud of bees.


This is how it goes when I have an ME relapse: I stay in denial for about the first two weeks, when I am in pain and exhausted, but not quite ill enough to be completely stopped in my tracks. Then – as happened just before Christmas – the illness gets bad enough that I have no choice – my concentration goes, and my legs become too weak to stand, and I know that I’m in trouble. This is when I am a Good Girl and rest aggressively and stoically.

Subconsciously, though, I have set a limit on the time that I am prepared to be super-ill. It’s bad enough to miss Christmas and the majority of December, but I’m not prepared for it to wipe out another month. This tends to coincide with feeling slightly, but not completely better, and it is the time when I am most in danger of overdoing it, because I am still very ill, but well enough to feel utterly BORED, and to feel the pressure of all the uncompleted tasks.

I then start gradually filling my diary, bit by bit. I am not too ill to cancel everything, but ill enough to cancel most things.

It must be very confusing for onlookers who do get to see me, because at this time I explain that I am quite ill, and resting lots, but when they see me, I look the picture of health, and I’m buzzing with the adrenaline of finally seeing and talking to people after several weeks of being more isolated. This is the reality of most people with chronic illness – it’s sprint and collapse – but friends rarely witness the collapse.

Basically, right now I’m Punxsutawney Phil, sticking my head out of my hole periodically for everyone to see and cheer, and then ducking inside for another few weeks to recover. (It’s going to be a long winter.)


I’m determined, this month, in defiance of the relapse, to launch my Secret Surprise project (look out for it later this week!).

I’m really excited, and it’s a project that I hope you’re going to be excited about too. (No clues. Except that this week I have discovered that while Scrivener is great for drafting and planning, when it comes to compiling and printing it is an unintuitive nightmare. I do so hate it when computers just flat out refuse to be reasonable.)

It has been a while in the making, and I am ready for it to be launched. But this means I have a plethora of people I haven’t voxed, emails I haven’t written, and thank you letters that are well overdue. I’m trying to be professional and smooth, whilst being utterly un-smooth. I’ve tried on my superhero cape, and much to my annoyance, it doesn’t fit.

Perhaps this is just what life looks like at times.


Perhaps we all need a buffer, some breathing space between the feast and the sprint, some time to digest 2014 before another year begins.

I find myself wishing everything in my life were more streamlined, that I were more streamlined, like all my newly January-Inspired-Dieting-And-Exercising-And-Keenly-Honed focused and efficient friends are. But we are not robots on a production line, and there are times when things get dropped.

I think of Jesus, who didn’t seem to have a smooth schedule, but who was often tired, even exhausted by his schedule. He took himself off for times of quiet and prayer – inefficiently.

I wonder if perhaps the cure for feeling overwhelmed and inefficient, is – counterintuitively – not to be more efficient, but to be even less efficient at such times. To retreat, to pray, to rest, to plan, even while you feel that you are falling further behind.

So – join me: I’m declaring my own January buffer zone, and I hereby resolve to be less efficient, and to pray more, and to worry less*. It’s a plan so crazy it might just work.

(*Just as soon as I’ve done the Super Secret Project. Hey – I can’t change overnight…!)


[tweetit]”Can we just all agree, unanimously, to put a pause on January?” – @Tanya_Marlow on feeling overwhelmed by January: [/tweetit]

[tweetit]”I don’t have my One Word for 2015 – instead, I have a thousand words, swirling round my head like a cloud of bees.”[/tweetit]

[tweetit]”I’ve tried on my superhero cape, and much to my annoyance, it doesn’t fit.” NEW post by @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]

[tweetit]”The New Year treadmill has started and I’m left scrambling to adjust the speed setting” NEW by @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]

[tweetit]”Right now I’m Punxsutawney Phil…(It’s going to be a long winter).” @Tanya_Marlow – feeling overwhelmed by January:[/tweetit]

Over to you:

  • What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?
  • When it comes to scheduling, are you a solid jogger, or a sprint-and-collapser?

P.S **Do look out for my Super Secret Surprise later on in the week, won’t you?**
P.P.S **God and Suffering: Our Story returns next week – with an amazing line-up!**


, ,

19 Responses to On feeling overwhelmed by January

  1. Elisabeth 24th January, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I LOVE this. I think your plan for January is awesome. I had plenty of time for reflection and organization in December, but then I started New Year’s with a cfs flare and it took a couple weeks before I could start to think about the goals I’d set. I have a million ideas that I want to accomplish this year!! But I need to relax more and go with the flow this month.

    • Tanya 28th January, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

      I think there’s something about January time and flare-ups: i get an ME relapse around this time every year. Sorry to hear you were affected too. I guess other normally-healthy people are also often stopped in their tracks in Winter because of flu etc. Maybe we should ban Winter??

      I definitely feel you on the zillions of ideas I want to do after a time of reflection…

  2. lulu 18th January, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    I wish this year would just stop. I started secondary school , was diagnosed with depression n my relationship with God has become basically non existent n I’m only 13. I just want life to stop n let me take a breath n catch up. My parents r divorced so I’m always moving n my mum deals with my depression a lot better than my dad so between my personal life n school I’m ready for the earth to crack open n swallow me up. But I could settle with just putting a pause on January.

    • Tanya 20th January, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

      I’ve just written a longer reply to your comment on ‘suffering in silence’, so do check it out. I’m really sorry to hear things are so tough for you.

      I have to say – I remember being 13, and for me, at least, it SUCKED. Being 18 was so much better. Being 21 was better still. And even with chronic illness, at the age of 30-something, I can honestly say that this could very well be the worst it’s gonna get. (That could in itself sound bleak, but stay with me here – it’s positive, honestly! It means it can only get better – and it will.)

      Also – I really like your dry sense of humour. “I’m ready for the earth to crack open n swallow me up. But I could settle with just putting a pause on January.” I SO know what you mean! It made me smile in recognition. Have you tried any writing, either journalling or writing fiction? I reckon you’d be really good.

      Much love to you.

      • lulu 20th January, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

        Yeah I read you’re reply to suffering in silence. I really appreciated it. Its nice to know someone es listening. I do write my youth group leader recommended it n it works sometimes. Thank you for the compliment on my sense of humour. Its one thing I pride myself on. On my worst days I’m at my funniest! You and my youth group leader are quite similar in personality. She is actually someone we have in common and the reason I know what your BIG SURPRISE is. Do you ever feel like God is using you as a tackling dummy?!

        • Tanya 22nd January, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

          Ah, I think I may have guessed who your youth leader is! I’m impressed that great minds think alike, and we both told you to write.

          I think there’s something about funny and sad that go together.

          And ha! yes – with the tackling dummy.

          • lulu 22nd January, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

            To give you a hint her initials are E M just in case your wrong and she recently moved! She is an amazing person and I don’t know what I’d do without her. I certainly wouldn’t be seeing a psychiatrist! It was very hard for me when she moved. I am very excited to read your book! E M says she’s gonna try and get her hands on it and if she thinks it’ll be good for me she’s gonna pass it along. I don’t think she has much confidence in my reading material since two of the last things I read was “My Sisters Keeper” and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”! By the way my name is katie-Lou but my nickname is Lulu and I prefer to be called Lulu that’s why I post using that name.

            • Tanya 28th January, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

              Aha! I did guess it right! I’m glad you have people looking out for you, even though she can’t be as close geographically any more. I can’t always reply to these messages very quickly, but I am really enjoying getting to know you a little. It’s fun to find kindred spirits of all ages. (I’m watching a lot of Anne of Green Gables at the moment, hence the kindred sprit comment…)

              Your reading material makes me laugh! I was always into dystopian, miserable literature as a teenager. As an adult, I sometimes worry that what I write about is too depressing as subject matter, and then I remember that some of my favourite books when I was a kid were Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War – on bullying, I am the Cheese – on loneliness and having no family), Lord of the Flies (kids kill each other). Cheery stuff!

  3. Rebecka 16th January, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Yes, I’ll join you! I want to “be less efficient, and to pray more, and to worry less”. I also desperately need to buffer. And while I can feel my body starting to recover from the holidays, my brain just isn’t catching up. So, while there is so much that I would like to say in this comment, I’m going to let my brain rest and not try so hard. 🙂

    I would like to say how much I appreciate your writing though and I’m very much looking forward to your Super Secret Project, I’ll read it as soon as I can!

    • Stephanie 17th January, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

      Yes, to all of this. And thrilled about your secret project, Tanya!

      • Tanya 20th January, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

        It’s nice to not feel alone in this! Thanks, Stephanie 🙂

    • Tanya 20th January, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

      Go rest that brain!
      Poor brain. Hope it recovers soon.
      No rush to read, but I’m thrilled that you want to read my little book!

  4. Cathy Fischer 14th January, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    Medscape had a feature today about CFS/ME that I thought was quite educational. It addressed the “look like you’re ok but really just on a slow upswing” paradox you are describing. I think we all do the best we can, learning from our miscalculations. At my workplace, my schedule is generally the busiest of the department, but historically it has distracted me from other, potentially more overwhelming issues in my life. I have worried periodically that the pace is unsustainable, but recently I’ve had some slowed-down days. I tend to look at it as God being merciful in allowing me a different perspective; the next step in generally what do I do with the gift of time?

    • Cathy Fischer 14th January, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

      PS Today I picked up Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life from the library–cracking it open right now!

  5. ellenflack 14th January, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    I m not ill with ME,but find that i certainly ned to be less efficient ! At 68,and having had chronic sciatica which is now much much better,i could charge i to masses of activitiesand wear myself out.Instead,i ve realised how short life is so i m relaxing about perfecting my homewith cleaning and redecoration and concentrating on peop.e,arts and crafts,reading,walking ,my grandchildren etc.Life ìs too short .I am at heart a perfectionist so its a big thing for me that when 5 fends come for lunch tomorrow,they will takeme as they find me,unvaccumed floors an all!!

  6. Helen 14th January, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    I’m on enforced rest so feel your frustration! I wish I had a pause button for everyone else so I can take time getting better without missing out on anything! Trying to be more patient and kind to myself. Difficult but necessary but enjoying the ‘buffer space’. Praying you’ve turned the corner on the relapse now :-). Looking forward to hearing about your secret project…

  7. Mark Allman 13th January, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    I am excited to hear about your Super Secret Project. I don’t want to wait till later!! 🙂 I am glad to see you pop your head up for a bit. I doubt many of us do down time very good. I am sure all of us could use some.

  8. Alison Whale 13th January, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Oh yes please. A pause would be helpful. Even when I try to plan one in other people mess it up! Frazzled and overwhelmed just about describes it.

Leave a Reply

Please send me my free ebook and updates