Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Winter survival guide

Yesterday was Blue Monday with its reputation of being the most depressing day of the year, and boy oh boy, did it ever live up to its name. Not just yesterday, but most of January so far. The "New Year, new decade!"-excitement is long forgotten, drowned out by the winter blues. This year the winter blues are manifesting in the form of dry and flaky skin, a body that's resembling the colour and texture of bread dough, work being blah, my depression telling me that nobody likes me and nothing is worth the effort, and my novel writing not going well at all.
Spring seems impossibly far away and barely real, little more than a mythical creature like unicorns and the Easter bunny.

However, being an old hand at depression and seasonal affective disorder has its benefits. I've done this rodeo more times than I can remember, and there are several things I can do that will lift my mood.
Let's take last Sunday as an example:
From the moment I woke up I was in a foul mood. The house was messy, I could barely catch my breath while feeding the sheep, and the sky was grey. I was annoyed with Rich, with winter, with the state of the house, with my breathing issue, and with the world. In short: I was pissed at life. 
But Lily kept looking at me hopefully with her big brown eyes, housework was staring in my face, and I thought I'd better get out of there for an hour.

So I took my girl and went for a walk in my brightest, most cheerful coat (rainbow colours have healing powers). 


It was amazing
The sun kept breaking through the grey skies, which will never not be magical to me. I was listening to Harry Potter on Audible during our walk, because Hogwarts is a happiness potion to me.
Bald eagles and hawks were soaring in the sky, the air didn't hurt because it has warmed up considerably, and a neighbourhood cowboy stopped for a chat and to give me some candy (I declined to get into his van - JUST KIDDING!).

But the best thing happened on the way back: we saw two otters! They were hanging out on the ice skirting the river, and when they noticed that we had spotted them they slid into the water. But they didn't swim away: they popped their cute little heads over the edge repeatedly, checking if we had left yet. After a minute or so we did, to give them their spot back. It was so special! It put me in a good mood for the rest of the day, and even two days later I'm smiling whenever I think about them.

Walks in nature always make me feel better. Sadly, that doesn't mean that I'm raring to go every day, full of energy and enthusiasm. On the contrary, I have to drag my sorry ass by the scruff of its neck more often than not. Luckily, Lily is a tough drill master and won't let me slack off too much, which is just one of the gazillion reason why dogs are so great.   

I thought I would share a few more tips of what helps me get through the winter blahs:
  • Soak in the sun. You better believe that I'm out of the house any chance I get when it's sunny. People in the northern hemisphere don't get enough vitamin D in the winter, and it shows. The sun is a great mood booster and it makes me happy every time I see her pretty face!


  • Move your body. I'm not a crazy exerciser, you guys know that, but I do believe strongly that an active body contains an active mind. Walking outside is my preferred exercise, and this year I'm aiming to step it up to some more extensive hikes. Yoga is my second love, but I'm not doing anything too crazy these days; mostly gentle stretches and some inversions. I love to see the world upside down!
  • Bright colours. Cheerful colours are a mood booster. My 3 favourite winter coats are bright yellow, red and blue, my scrubs are always colourful, and pretty much everything in our house from the walls, dinnerware, sheets, rugs and furniture is bright and uplifting.
  • Animals. You all know that we are animal-crazy. Being surrounded by dogs and cats is my happy place.

  • Have something to look forward to. Plan a vacation, hang out with friends, go out for dinner with your spouse, go on an adventure, try something new, order yourself a treat online - anything that gets you out of the winter-blahs is good. I ordered myself a few new dresses for my trip to Germany in May, I'm considering to do a few days of solo travel while I'm in Europe (haven't done that since my big trip where I met Rich - 18 years ago), and on Friday I'm gonna go on a hike with friends. All things that make me so happy!
  • Read all the books. I'm on an intense reading spree, and it's all Lisa Jewell's fault. I discovered her late last year, and I'm well on my way to reading all of her 22 published books. My favourites so far are: The Family Upstairs; I Found You; and Then She was Gone. Lisa Jewell writes breathtaking mystery and suspense and creates characters you won't soon forget. I love her! I also devoured The Alice Network and The Huntress, both by Kate Quinn, and both suspenseful historical fiction. 
  • Work on a project. I have a year-long project (writing the novel I'm currently stuck on), and I decided last night to try something else: grow out my bangs! I never not had bangs since I have long hair, and I want to see if a) I can do it, and b) if I like it. I love my bangs, but maybe I will love not having them more?
  • Be kind to yourself. Most importantly, don't beat yourself up if you are not doing as well as you think you should be doing. This is a hard time of year with the short and cold days, the after-Christmas slump and the overly ambitious goals so many of us set ourselves at new Year's. You can start over at any time. And if you can't work on your goals because you just can't, that's fine too. Nature hibernates right now, and our inner wild Neanderthal wants to hibernate as well. If your body and mind need rest, give it to them. Believe that your time will come, because it will! Not even Sleeping Beauty slept forever.

There you have it, a few tried and true winter survival strategies.
What do you do to survive winter? 


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