Coming to Terms With Winter (Now That the Holidays Are Over)

strategies for coping with winter depressionI don’t like winter, but I like December. I really do. It’s festive and fun; twinkle lights twinkle everywhere and holiday anticipation fills the cold air. Where I live, December’s cold is new and novel. Sweaters feel good against skin that’s gone bare for too many months and the first snow is a miracle.

But then Christmas is over, the holidays are spent, the cold settles in, and spring remains two (or maybe 3?)  months away. Suddenly, the cold isn’t new or novel–it’s oppressive. The dreary days have no twinkle light to brighten them.

The Christmas lights are will be up in my neighborhood for another week (if I’m lucky), and I’m still anticipating a festive New Years celebration. But I’m well aware that Winter In Earnest is coming. I may not love winter, but I’ve learned to cope with the season. Here’s how I’m getting myself ready for coping with my least favorite season.

(‘m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. But these tips have helped me a lot.)

1. Bring the sunshine in. I love my daylight, and I miss it this time of year. Despite knowing this about myself, I waited way too long to buy a light therapy box because I didn’t think I technically suffered from seasonal affective disorder. When I finally decided to get one anyway, I called it one of the smartest things I did that year.

I use my Happy Light every morning, but I recently got to try a more normal-looking (read: attractive) reading lamp from Verilux, the same company that makes the Happy Light. I positioned this pretty natural-spectrum lamp right by my favorite spot on the sofa, and I’ve been clicking it on every time I sit down. My body craves the natural-seeming light, and it casts a pretty glow about the room. My mind may know it’s wintertime, but my body is still happier if it gets some good quality light throughout the day. I think these lamps help me on that score.

2. Get some fresh air. I try to bring the sunshine in with my lamps, but I get outside everyday too, if even for a few minutes. I feel so much better when I breathe in fresh air and get myself outdoors into the actual sunshine, no matter how much it seems to be masked by the winter clouds.

3. Get some exercise. My doctor tells me we all tend to move less in the wintertime. This may be a natural inclination, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. I make sure that every day I lift some weights, get on the treadmill or rower, do a yoga video. I just know I’m happier–and sleep so much better–when I get some exercise.

4. Get some sleep. Keep in mind that your body may require more shut-eye in the winter months. (Mine does.)

5. Take your vitamins. Vitamins are a recent addition to my winter regimen, because I used to think my healthy diet took care of my nutritional needs. But now to make sure I’m doing everything I can to set myself up for a successful winter, I’m taking a multivitamin, a B-complex, fish oil, and Vitamin D daily.

6. Embrace the cozy. I can’t deny that winter isn’t my favorite season. I desperately miss sunshine and warmth during these months. But winter does have its charms, and I’m doing my best to embrace them. I’m enjoying comfort food (stews and braises are my favorites). I’m lighting the fire, and scented candles, or both. I’m curling up on the couch with a quilt and a good book.

Winter and I may not be on the best of terms, but I can manage till spring if I follow my own advice.

How do you feel about the winter months? What tips can you share for enjoying (or surviving) the season?

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Comments

  1. says

    I am right there with you with not enjoying winter much. I survive by reading the forecast and trying to get out for a winter run whenever the sun is going to be out and the temperatures are going to be the warmest for the day. I also try to work on a few indoor type projects over the winter months like the family photo album or bigger knitting projects just to put the indoor time to some use and not get cabin fever.

  2. says

    I never used to mind the winter, but since last year was so mild this year feels like a shock to me. I agree that getting outside every day helps. I’ve also been reading my seed catalogues and dreaming of Spring!

  3. says

    One way I get some fresh air during the winter months (besides running up to the gym a few mornings a week) is to go across the street for coffee. I could make it in my office, but by walking a block and taking the time to say hello to the nice folks who make a good cup of coffee I am able to break the routine and enjoy the weather for a short bit. Unless it’s driving rain, I can make it there and back with relatively little discomfort and sometimes make it into a very enjoyable stroll.

  4. says

    As I read your blog I am sitting at my writing desk, strategically positioned to get the morning sunshine. I have terrible SADD. I crave sunshine like food. After 3 days of grey, I’m a wreck. I have a light box, but it doesn’t seem to give me the same psychological lift as the sun because it is cold. I’ll check out the one you suggest. Be good to yourself, I would add. And a trip to FL is sometimes what the doctor orders. :)

  5. says

    OH, yes! This post was spot on. I layer light (overhead, spots, lamps, and candles) and move all my houseplants to my living area. Is it just me, or is it hard to drink enough water in the winter? Dehydration is such an energy sucker for me. I also like to do 28 or 30 day challenges during January and February to give myself a little extra motivation. I usually do a brain/spiritual challenge in January (a Bible study, a reading group, etc) and a physical or house challenge in February.

    • Anne says

      Nope, it’s not just you–it’s hard for me to drink water in the winter, too.

      I love the idea of layering light and moving the plants!

  6. says

    These are all great tips and are precisely what I do to keep my mood up also. This winter has been mild so thankfully I’ve been able to keep up my daily walk. It’s the #1 thing for me, no matter what the season, for keeping my mood good.

  7. says

    I was beginning to think I was the only one who really disliked the Winter. My husband and I just moved to Northern Idaho and I am seriously struggling with Winter blues. Thank you for these recommendations. I need to look in to the Happy Lamps. How much Vitamin D do you take? My multi-vitamin has 1000 IUDs and I’m wondering if that’s enough.

    • Anne says

      Emily, I take 10,000 IU/day after talking it over with my dr. I also forgot to mention I take magnesium because those two vitamins need each other to work!

  8. Amy says

    These are great thoughts. I do most of these things but I forgot that yes, I probably do need more sleep and was wondering why I was struggling to get up in the morning, even going to bed at my normal time.

    Have you ever tried embracing the winter and finding a winter sport that you can do? This has helped me a lot (we live in northern Maine). Now, I find myself thinking that I only have 3 months to enjoy snowshoeing or XC skiing or ice skating…it’s a different perspective. For ease, I’d suggest snowshoeing- you can explore lots of places that are unattainable in the summer because they are brushy or wet. And I can strap my snowshoes on in less than a minute. :)

    • Anne says

      Amy, I love the thought, and I would love to try snowshoeing! At least once :) I’m not sure it snows enough here for that, but I would love to try it sometime, somewhere. I’ll need to come up with another sport I can do where I live.

  9. says

    I’m reveling in winter. Scarves! Jackets! Not having to run the AC!

    I refuse to run the AC after October, so the beginning of Nov was pretty hot – still high 80s/low 90s outside, often low 80s inside, meh. As late as Dec 7th we went swimming – in an outdoor pool!

    But in the last 2 weeks “winter” officially arrived. It’s only in the 50s in the day, and 30s at night, and I love it SO much. I have such a hard time understanding/empathizing with people like you who dread winter. :)

    But then I remind myself that you probably feel how I do in March, the first time the temp tops 90, and suddenly I realize that soon I’ll only be able to take E to the park before 9 am or after 6 pm, and I’ll only be able to wear shorts and flip flops for the next 7 months, and my options will be either (a) AC all day or (b) sweating all day. So whatever the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder is? I have THAT! :)

    • Anne says

      Jessica, I love fall! So maybe I’d love the Arizona winter. And I do love winter here–for about a month. Unfortunately it lasts longer than that :)

  10. says

    It’s so funny that you mention the light thing because I’ve recently realized what an issue that is for me. My husband walks into our bedroom and sees the overhead light on along with three lamps and thinks I’m crazy! Maybe I just need the right kind of light…and to get outside more.

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