No Secrets Here
The holidays are over and now the Christmas tree (if
you had one at your house and it’s still up) in the daylight looks an awful lot
like the haggard faces you see when they flip the lights on at the bar at the
end of the night. New Year’s Eve and all
its expectations are now over and we are left looking at the vast expanse of
another cold, Canadian winter. This can
be soul crushing, but doesn’t have to be.
Following the holidays, we can experience a predictable feeling of being
let down, having little to look forward to, other than bleak, freezing snowy
days and maybe a long weekend in February, which is miles away. Oh, Winter Blahs, you cometh.
Beating those blahs will take some work. If you are lucky enough to be able to
vacation somewhere warm in the winter, that vacation will be a meaningful
anchor point and something to be hopeful about when the -20 winds suck at your
soul like the Dementors from Harry Potter.
However, kicking the blahs in the butt does not require thousands of
dollars. Here are some suggestions of
more cost-effective and day-to-day ways to get over the post-holiday slump and
winter blast combination that drags us into the dumps:
- Break the time down: I find counting
days to be oppressive, but if you can count the weeks until spring/until a
vacation/until a visit from a friend/until someone’s birthday/etc., you may
find that the time doesn’t move like molasses going uphill in February. Here in Ottawa, I’m saying to myself that there
are really only 12 weeks of hell-frozen-over-weather…I only have to deal with
12 weeks of this, and I can do 12 weeks.
- Get moving: It’s so cold out there that
if you stand still too long, you’ll freeze in place. Ice skating, skiing, snow-shoeing, Nordic
walking…all of these things raise your heart rate and your body temperature,
AND they get you out of the house. A
good friend of mine had suggested that I cope with winter by developing
protective layers of warmth through competitive
poutine eating. I have a feeling that
if I follow that advice, I’ll feel warm, but disgusting. No thank you, but that leads me to:
- Attend to your diet: While many of us
reach for food or drink to comfort us when we are lamenting the winter, it
becomes more important to pay attention to what we’re consuming. If you are deciding to cope with winter by becoming
one with the cold through nightly ice cream binges, chances are the sugar rush
will be short lived, but your mood will be sunk in the long term.
Pick up a hobby: If you’re going to stay
inside, keep your brain engaged! This
may be the year you pick up the guitar, indoor gardening, knitting,
scrapbooking, puzzle assembly, painting, model airplane kit making, whittling,
sewing, etc. If you’ve got something interesting
to do in your spare time, being kept indoors will not be an imprisonment, but a
- Find activities in your community: Think
about it: if you’re feeling stir crazy, likely other people are too. Whether you live in a city or a small town,
chances are that your community has some kind of winter festival where people
get together for some purpose (sleigh rides, ice sculpture, ice skating, snow
man making contests, etc.). You will
also find other people there who find winter as oppressive as you do. The old saw, “Misery loves company” can help
you relate to others and will give structure to conversations with
acquaintances or other people from your neighbourhood whom you may not know
well. Also, winter time can be a good
time to decide to check out a local museum or art exhibit or film.
- Challenge your own complaining about
winter: I loathe winter. I complain
about winter in the summer. This does
not help me, but I do it anyway. In the
last number of years, I set the intention to complain less about winter and to
find things I can like about it. It’s
not lying to yourself to find a positive spin on something you dislike. It may be that what you like most about winter
is that it ends eventually. That’s
ok. Trying to stay positive can help you
from falling totally into the abyss.
- Get a light box: IT’S DARK OUT
THERE! And some of us find that without
a lot of sunlight, our moods sink.
Whether you meet clinical criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or
just find the winter gives you the blues, renting or buying a UV light box may
be a good idea.
The above are some suggestions to help manage mild
to moderate blahs. Admittedly, while
these suggestions may be helpful to boost moods, it’s unlikely that counting
weeks or picking up a hobby will be sufficient in and of itself to battle
clinical depression. This may also be
the winter you decide to get into (or get back into) therapy, or talk to your
doctor about medical interventions to cope with what might be more than just
the winter blahs. Whatever you decide to
do, what’s most important is that you engage in looking after yourself and not
let the winter blahs slush on your parade.