Hello from the polar vortex! I’ve had a very strange sensation the past few days, I’m mad at the weather. I don’t think I’ve ever been mad at the weather before. Annoyed, sure. Weary and ready to move on to the next season, yep. But, standing at my window with my brows furrowed and swear words threatening to bubble up in my brain? That’s new.
I started wondering what in the world was going on with me and then I realized, what’s going on in the world is the problem with me. This plunge into winter feels extra hard this year because it is extra hard this year. We cannot dismiss the “layering effect” this weather is having upon all that we have faced for a year in the pandemic. To that end, I wanted to offer some thoughts and ideas for relief to those of you who also may be muttering in front of your frost-covered window panes.
Tips for Managing Winter Blues
- Call a Spade a Spade: We do ourselves no favors by pretending this experience is something it’s not. Much of the country is currently in a temperature plunge with some combination of ice, snow, electricity blackouts, and kids home from school again (mercy!) But, unlike other years, we are doing this after a year in a pandemic. If you are struggling more than usual, it’s not weakness. It’s the product of difficulty upon difficulty for a really long time. Give yourself a little grace and a hug, not shame.
- Acknowledge the Public Health Crisis: In a similar vein to the point above, we are in a very real public health crisis. The articles about mental health impacts on different populations (ex. mothers, young people) are in the headlines daily. If you are struggling, remember that you are not alone, this is hard for many people. Also, seasonal affective disorder is real and may require medical, supplement (Vitamin D), and/or therapeutic intervention. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor and remember, online mental health therapy can be done right from your home through companies like BetterHelp and TalkSpace.
- Find Sunshine: Not all of these options will work for everyone, but here goes. On the days when the sun shines, even if it is bitterly cold, it can help to be in front of your window in the sun or even (bundle up!) step outside for a few minutes. My screensaver and television are routinely tuned into some pleasant scene with sunshine. And, for those who have the means, light therapy has been shown to be effective to lift mood. Here’s a review on several that are rated well (link).
- Switch Your Focus to “What Can I Do?”: Because I love to be outdoors, I really struggle with a scarcity attitude in the winter. But, focusing on how winter limits our options is really deflating. My days are much better when I start with “what can I do today” or “what will I miss when it’s summer/busy/not pandemic?” Usually that shifts me back into gratitude for the permission to read the extra book, watch another movie, sleep in, bake with my kids, etc. For those of us who like to be busy and productive, we have to remember that the pioneer people weren’t lazy when they had to stay in and around the house. It was just the truth of the season.
- Widen Your Perspective: Pull up a calendar. Seriously. It can be so helpful to simply look at a calendar and realize that if the normal pattern of weather holds true, we will begin to see signs of spring within a few weeks. Winter does not last forever and polar vortexes don’t last for more than a couple days (thank goodness!) Counting the weeks or days until we experience a little relief can help alleviate the “forever” feeling.
- Move: Yep, it’s probably not going to be your normal routine, but we have to move. My Mom walked a mile in her two bedroom house each of the last couple days (so impressed btw). Many of us have fitness options available on our televisions or phones. Bodies aren’t designed to stay still and they feel extra physically, mentally, and emotionally funky if they do. Even if it’s just a few minutes, doing something to stretch and move can do wonders.
Folks, we’re going to be okay. It’s been super-duper hard for a really long time, but the end of all this (pandemic, cold, isolation) is so much closer than it was. I hope a little joy, sunshine, and grace meet you this day and give you stubborn hope for the joy ahead.