Entering the dark season.

Entering the dark season.

Yesterday was the first day of Advent.

To me, it also felt like the day that winter began in earnest. Thanksgiving Day was gorgeous: we were outside wearing just t-shirts, the kids threw the football in the yard, they crunched through the still-falling leaves. November can be like that.

But December rarely is. Now we’re on a straight downhill plunge towards the solstice. The light is fading fast.

That’s not all bad. Much like the Norwegians who embrace their long winters, I look forward to the things I can only do during the colder months. I don’t complain about the weather (much): I genuinely enjoy bringing out the blankets, burning the candles, drinking tea at 2:00 in the afternoon. I wasn’t sad to trade in tank tops for turtlenecks, or strappy sandals for boots.

But looking on the bright side only gets me so far. I still miss my daylight, and by that I mean my brain misses it, and my body yearns for it. For me, making it through the winter season requires not just a change of mindset, but an arsenal of coping strategies.

I’m taking care of myself. When it’s cold it’s easy for me to slack on the things I need to feel good, no matter the season. I’m reminding myself to take my vitamins and get some exercise every day.

I’m using my therapy light in the early mornings, even though I don’t yet feel like I desperately need it. (I’ve learned that’s the best time to start.)

I’m putting my feet in the park every day (unless it’s icy—I don’t do ice). Last year I resolved to go to the park every single day, even if it was well below freezing, and the regular dose of fresh air and daylight did wonders for my mood and mindset.

And of course, I’m sincerely enjoying the upsides to the season. We’re building fires and reading books on the sofa, snuggled under fuzzy blankets. We’re toasting up batches and batches of wintry spiced nuts. We’re stirring up hot chocolate and mulled wine.

I’m never going to be a winter enthusiast (unless I move to some magical place where winter is three weeks long). But I’m making peace with the dark. Or at least, I’m trying.

P.S. Last year’s accidental Advent meditation.

26 comments | Comment

26 comments

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  1. Shannan says:

    Thanks for sharing how you are coping with the winter time. Yesterday, it started raining here and it is still going. Our winters in Alabama are rainy and gray. We rarely get snow, which I think I would be able to stand a little bit better but the grayness and the rain just depresses me. I AM making a sincere effort to be intentional and do all in my power to enjoy this winter season. We don’t have a fireplace but I will be going out to look for great smelling candles to burn. Thanks for that idea!

  2. Wouldn’t a three week winter be the best? The weather effects me a lot as well, and going outside definitely helps, as do cocoa and fires and happy music. I wish the radio stations would keep playing Christmas music through February, because that’s when I need it most. 🙂

  3. Katia says:

    I always say I love winter before the holidays and until January 1st. After that, the weather only gets colder in Ontario and finally starts to thaw sometime in April. I’m very specific about winter weather that I actually enjoy: crisp sunny days, fresh snow, temperatures of -5C to about -10C, and no wind. Those days are rare. We usually get snow, rain, sleet, and winds that chill us to the bones. Brrr… Yet, my kids get enthusiastic about even 1 cm of snow on the ground. Watching their faces light up in delight inspires me to make the most of every day, regardless of the weather. I do my best to get outside every day whenever possible, eat grounding, comforting foods, get up early to exercise, and get to bed early. This has become my not-very-exciting winter routine. It works for me and gets me through the cold months.

    • Anne says:

      Hey, just because it doesn’t sound terribly exciting doesn’t mean it doesn’t work! (And yeah, it’s much easier for me to be enthusiastic about snow than sleet. That is the WORST!)

  4. Stacey says:

    So glad you wrote this today. I was just feeling my winter darkness creeping in and reminding myself of my resolution to get outside each day no matter the temperature. Each year I wonder about a therapy light? It really might be time for me to invest…

  5. Peggy kelly says:

    This year I year I have been challenged to embrace the winter. I am not sure exactly what that will look like yet. In the past I have cried the day we set the clocks back and counted the days until spring! I have bought candles, made a booklist and ….. Hoping for more ideas!!

  6. Terri says:

    I’ve coped with SAD for years. Initially I tried a therapy lamp like you, Anne. For the past 7 years, I’ve used a sunrise clock. It is a dawn simulator. The lamp gets progressively lighter until the time you set your alarm. It’s been great for me. My first one just died and I bought another just like it. Here’s where I bought it: http://www.biobrite.com/product-category/sunrise-clock/ I got a refurbished unit for $90. I find I use mine from the time daylight savings time ends until it starts up again. Thanks for the informative post!

  7. You’re right, it is much more than attitude. Even my second-born son, when he was younger, experienced “sundowning”. He would come to me each day at dusk complaining that he felt suddenly, inexplicably sad. My 3 year old has been telling me in the late afternoons that she hates the dark and wants it to be “morning outside”. This is biological.

    I think I would embrace winter more if it was actually a fun season where I live, but it only snows once a decade here, the rest of the time it’s rain and sleet. Bleh.

    I am still getting outside every day and exercising. Those are the biggies for me.

  8. I have the same feelings about winter. The way I cope with 4 homeschooling kids is going outside if the sun is shining no matter what. The sun is shining school becomes second priority!! We drop everything and go outside. 🙂 It becomes really hard in January and February. If it’s cold, raining and ugly outside, we cuddle under the covers and watch movies or do other fun stuff. One of the things that really help my kids and me is moving around. So if we can’t go outside, we put some music on and dance. But, yeah… I can’t wait for spring!

  9. Big yes to all of this. I’ve lived in New England all my life and I made it through each winter without complaint… until last winter. In all honesty, I’m still recovering. The dwindling daylight feels harder this year so I’m determined to muddle through with my light therapy, tension tamer tea, chilly walks, kid giggles, and heaps of good books 🙂

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