3 things saving my life right now

Today is the first business day of February. This isn’t an easy month—or an easy season—for many of us. (Although January gave me such a beating this year I think that surely February has to be a little easier. This must be what it looks like to tempt fate.)

I know I’m not alone in my winter struggles. To beat back the gloom, today we’re sharing the things—big or small—that are saving us right now.

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. In it, she tells the story of how once she was invited to speak at a gathering, and when she asked what she was to speak about, her host told her this: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life. The question invites you to do just that.

Taylor says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time, and I agree. We have been revisiting it here, for six or seven years now, always at the halfway point of winter.

Friends, this was HARD for me this year. Our purpose here isn’t to enumerate what’s killing me right now, although I know the answer: my family has been sick nonstop since Thanksgiving, I’ve been pulled away for planned and unplanned trips, this season has been too full, with too little margin.

I’m tired. And in this context, I appreciated the call to pay attention to what’s bringing me life. For inspiration (and so as not to tell you the same things all over again, year after year) I spent the weekend looking back at all the posts I’ve written on this topic in the past. It was interesting to see how much has remained constant over time.

If my blog posts are any indication, it’s never an easy time of year. I’m always tired, and missing the daylight, and dealing with the flu.

And yet I didn’t realize until I saw it in print how often the same strategies and small graces help me survive the season: getting outside for exercise and fresh air, drinking buckets of hot tea, enjoying the occasional sunny day, buying fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s. (I was especially happy to see that one, for this reason.)

When I think about what’s saving my life this season, my mind is readily drawn to the foundational things: eating well (that is, not eating crap), walking the dog, going to bed on time, spending time with good books. You know: the usual.

But upon reflection—which is the entire point of the exercise, thank you, Barbara Brown Taylor, I can point to three unique things that are absolutely saving me right now.

1. Jigsaw puzzles. The summer before last, we hosted Marisa de los Santos in the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club to discuss her novel I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. That was a wonderful conversation for many reasons, but in this season my thoughts keep circling back to her professed love of jigsaw puzzles.

When we talked to her in Book Club via video, we could see a giant bookcase full of puzzles over her shoulder. I couldn’t resist asking her about them, and she explained that they were a crucial tool in her novel writing process. When you’re working a puzzle, your mind feels like it’s occupied with the task in front of you—and yet by the time you put the puzzle aside, you discover your creative mind has made progress on its own problems, those of structure and plot.

Lately I’ve been turning to the puzzles not just because they’re fun, but because they’re helping me think, even on days when that feels difficult, or the problem at hand feels intractable. And since I’m also in the season of Don’t Overthink It publicity interviews, puzzles are also helping me regain my equilibrium when my introverted self is feeling all talked out.

(We just shared a huge list of great puzzles right here, go check it out!)

2. Taking the long view. This winter I’ve been having a lot of conversations about two seemingly unrelated things that are shaping my perspective on life: publishing timelines and college visits.

Traditional book publishing is notorious for its slow timelines. That means some of the authors you read and love are planning books now that won’t hit shelves for 7-10 years. Love it or hate it, publishing requires a long view. And love it or hate it, my kids are suddenly growing up really fast. I don’t love either one, most days, but I’ve grown strangely grateful that publishing forces me to think about my kids growing up in a different way.

The long view is also specifically helping me this February by showing me that every year I get walloped by winter sickness, and every year spring comes again and we get over it.

3. Friday coffee planning meetings. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ve taken something that used to be the chore of weekly planning and turned it into something I genuinely look forward to—and it feels like a huge win.

A change in habits, a change in mindset—these don’t seem like huge things, but they’re saving me.

 *****     *****     *****

What’s saving your life right now? Share your own blog or Instagram post below in the comments section.

P.S. Last year’s saving-my-life reflection (with a little help from Rick Steves), and my favorite and oh-so-timely post on what’s saving my life. Plus survival strategies for winter, my least favorite season.

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Leave A Comment
  1. Inspired By Hermione says:

    Reading. Although I read a lot in 2019, the end of the year felt like I was just trying to check boxes on prompts for reading challenges that I had put off. I ended up not liking most of what I read in December and it ended the year on a bit of a sour note. But in January I got back at it and have been focusing on reading my unread books. I was so excited to buy these books when I got them- so now is the time to shop my shelf and actually read them.
    Puzzles. After your posts about them, I bought a puzzle to see if I liked it at night. I did! I will actually lose track of time doing them, which very rarely happens. I sit and listen to my audiobook and just work on the puzzle. I feel so relaxed after. I’m about a third of the way through my second puzzle since 1/21.
    Eating the same things. It makes it so much more likely that I’ll eat at home when I know what to make and that I have the ingredients. I don’t meal prep on weekends because I do not like leftovers, but I make sure I always have the stuff to make a good, filling sandwich at night. It’s helped me reduce how much I eat out and destresses my evenings.

  2. Janice Schwartz says:

    For me, it’s all about lighting. When it’s gloomy outside I light candles or use the battery operated flickering fake candles for a beautiful and uplifting mood boost. Also, most grocery stores sell inexpensive flower bundles for $5. I mix these into several vases and add evergreen from outside to make them go further.

  3. Marsi says:

    I’m not sure anything’s saving my life at the moment. Last Friday, I finished two very intense work months, with back-to-back travel and hard deadlines on creative projects. So naturally, now that it’s over, I developed a bad cold over the weekend. Forced to slow down, now that the intensity is behind me.
    I guess I would say my usual habits of writing morning pages every morning, meditating 20 min at least once a day, and getting enough sleep have been saving me.
    But I do feel like now that I’m sick I could use a little something “extra” to get me though. Looking forward to reading the non-spam comments. 🙃

    • Melissa Lowery says:

      My body does the same thing after a period of intensity. As soon as things wind down, my body seems to break down. I’m trying to shift my mindset to look at these as periods of rest – even though they’re forced – and catch up on things that got pushed aside during the periods of intensity. Like catching up on a show or watching a movie on my list, reading for fun (of course), exporting photos/videos from my phone and organizing them to put in photo books, actually making photo books!, planning special events and putting fun things on my calendar (birthday parties, Galentine’s Day, setting up lunch dates with friends, local art shows and concerts and community events, etc.), writing encouraging notes (sometimes I send anonymous notes to women in my community thanking them for their work; I try to choose women who may not get a lot of recognition; they always post on social media so I get to see their reactions without them knowing it was me), etc. etc. I hope you feel better soon, but please do take time to rest!

  4. Joyce says:

    A couple things saving the long month of February, last night I noted it was almost 6:30 and still a little daylight left. Everyday we gain a little more. The second is ordering garden seeds and planning my garden. Will be time to start my plants.

    • Sandy says:

      Getting ready for my annual (4th year!) trip to the White Stallion Ranch in AZ to meet up with my sister and have a fun week of riding, eating, meeting new friends and catching up. We look forward to it all year.

    • Ruth says:

      Noticing daylight is new for me this winter – it has seemed extra dark, and long.
      As far north as I am though, our remaining daylight was gone by 5:30 last night. Still grateful to notice it. 🙂

  5. Cindy says:

    Straightening books. The Friends of the Library in my town are fortunate enough to have a large room for bi-monthly book sales. Donations from patrons and from the library itself make shelving a constant need, and while alphabetizing and Dewey categorizing are not necessarily a MUST, I find that nothing (except maybe jigsaw puzzles) puts me into a zone like working with those books.

  6. Niki Foster says:

    The details of your coffee planning meeting would actually be quite interesting. I’m struggling hard with finding time to plan.

  7. Emily Kerr says:

    Worship on Sundays, three books clubs with different emphasis (spirital, creative and general reading), friends and family, the Buy Nothing neighborhood facebook group, being a steward for a Little Free Library, tutoring a refugee family with 2 other tutors – we all have become good friends.

      • Emily Kerr says:

        We started with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Other books have been Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orlan, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, AHA! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas by Jordan Ayan, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Anyone can suggest a book. We also bring art work that we have been working on. This has inspired members to do more. We are in different art areas (watercolor, pastels, quiltmaking, photography, art journaling, etc.) We have met monthly for 7 years now.

        • BIG MAGIC is astoundingly full of common sense for the artist!
          I am an artist from Kingwood, Texas. Doing art always helps. I am on the committee that judges school western art during the rodeo. It’s in January, but it is so affirming about the good things that kids so, so I suppose it is a life saver. Another thing is connecting with my friends and family on facebook. Some of them are 700 miles away.
          I have thought that Thanksgiving would be better in February. There are too many holidays in the fall, and February is often bleak.

          • Janeece Brophy says:

            Thanksgiving in February- what a great idea! February is the shortest month, but it seems the longest since we’ve been living in New Hampshire! I think I will just start doing this, inviting friends, making it easy with crockpot soups, maybe combining with Valentine’s desserts. Sharing thankfulness and friendship! Thank you Linda for the idea!

      • Carolyn says:

        There is a book about The Little Free Library written by the man that started the movement. I got a copy at the library, it gave us ideas for ours. Also they have a website.

      • Emily Kerr says:

        My Little Free Library (LFL) is at my church. We see it as part of our mission to be good neighbors. The church also has a preschool and the LFL is between the enterance to the preschool and a playground on site so our location is a bit unique. When you register your LFL, you are placed on a map so people can look up the locations of all the LFLs in your area. As a steward, you get emails from the LFL organization with lots of tips such as how you can get the word out about your library. If you have neighborhoos websites like NextDoor you can post there too.

  8. Anne Marie says:

    1). Things to look forward to (work training, a personal retreat, weekends judging speech tournaments and traveling with my daughter’s team)

    2). Small group training at the Y, 3 times a week.

    3). A little bit of run/walking. Just enough to feel good.

    4). Reading. Right now “Me and white supremacy” by Layla Saad (doing this deep work during black history month seems fitting) and “The moment of lift” by Melinda Gates.

  9. Victoria says:

    I’m hoping someone will chime in with HOW to keep puzzles away from toddlers. We have a great big dining room table, and we could eat on one half and puzzle on the other, but I need a cover? Or a tray to move it? Would welcome any suggestions. 23-month-old twins love to climb.

    • Lisa F. says:

      Hi Victoria,
      Perhaps you could try a puzzle roll up mat–they allow plenty of space to assemble the puzzle and then you can roll it up and store it until you’re ready to assemble again. The pieces all stay put. My grandmother used to use one of these and loved how she could do her puzzles anywhere without “losing her place.” Everyone from Amazon to Walmart to JoAnn’s sells different versions. Hope that helps…

    • G. L. Herr says:

      I have a large framed cork bulletin board on which to work puzzles. I can move it easily and store according to household restrictions (pets/toddlers).
      Slides under a sofa or on a bed or atop a desk.

      • Melissa Lowery says:

        Oh, sliding it under the sofa…that’s smart! My house is pretty small so I can’t have a puzzle out all the time nor do I have a place to store a big board with a puzzle on it. OR SO I THOUGHT. Thanks for this idea!

    • Terrie says:

      They make puzzle trays that come with cardboard trays for the pieces and a big flat area for the puzzle. The trays stack on top of the partial puzzle and get velcroed shut so you can slide it out of the way. Or if you’re handy you could probably make something using a cheap-o bulletin board (cork so pieces don’t slide around) and then fabricate a sleeve for it out of felt or a pillow case or something. Good luck!

  10. Leanne says:

    Seasonal candles, hot tea, monthly massages, reading, the Super Bowl, grocery shopping at Aldi, time with my love, a new boss, and today we have sunshine for the first time in a LONG time.

  11. Rachelle H Woodbury says:

    My family decided to take up skiing two years ago. This year my husband loves it so much that he is teaching and we all ski for a seriously discounted price. I am not a great skiier–all my kids are better than me–but I love being outside, and I love seeing my kids burning some much needed energy in the middle of winter. This past Saturday, February 1, it was sunny all day for I think the first time since December. That saved my life. Utah can be very dreary in the winter due to the inversion (the mountains trap the dirty air in the valley until a storm blows through). Thanks for the puzzle suggestion! We have a New York trip planned this summer and I think the Bethesda fountain in Central Park is the perfect idea to get us all excited.

  12. *Doing some T’ai Chi in the morning, especially since icy sidewalks make it difficult to walk freely and easily. *Pausing throughout the day to recite a meditation from Desmond Tutu : “I am here. I am as close as a prayer. I am breathing in your breath.” *Leaving my garret office at 4:00 and moving into the room we call “the snug.” I read there for an hour or so before fixing dinner. *Soft flannel pajamas and permission to put them on long before bedtime. *And so much more. Ah, how this reflection helped!

  13. Louise says:

    1. Less than four weeks until I get to see my grandson. 2. Light at the end of the tunnel of a very long work project (which really means, delegating tasks so I can enjoy the last bit). 3. Finding small ways to make my physical environment better — e.g., new curtains in my living room, repotting some house plants, reorganizing my closet.

  14. Martha says:

    Social ballroom dancing with my husband is bringing so much joy! We’re beginners but enjoying learning / dancing the dances and meeting great folks in the dancing community. We have wonderful church friends but the dancing is bringing fresh life to us socially, emotionally, physically and mentally.

  15. Cathy says:

    To make winters more bearable, I highly recommend getting a flu shot each fall. My husband is a teacher and brings home all the germs but I have not had the flu since 1993, which I attribute to getting the shot.

    • Ruth says:

      Cannot say yes, yes, yes fast enough to this. Even if you get the flu (and there’s a nasty one this year) it’s not as bad as it would have been. Do it for yourself, but also for the members of the community who can’t have the shot (e.g. newborns, people with compromised immune systems) and need you to be immune to protect them.

    • SusanK says:

      Amen to that! I was going to include it in my own list—flu vaccinations! While families we know are felled one by one all around us all winter, my husband and I sail, flu-free, thru all the cold months. I can’t remember the last time either of us had the flu, thanks to shots for the last 20 years. Do yourself a FAVOR!

  16. Sarah Capper says:

    I recently bought a happy light (mine’s actually called HappyLight, and it’s made by Verilux, if anyone else is looking for one), and it has made winter so much better for me. I’ve found it’s particularly great at dusk, as that time of day is usually ickier for me than actual night is. My mood is much better and I have felt kind of like a superhero with all the extra energy it’s given me.

  17. Lisa F. says:

    Things saving my life right now:
    1) reading my Bible every morning
    2) morning walk on the treadmill
    3) fresh flowers purchased at the grocery store
    4) Twinings English Breakfast Honey and Vanilla Tea
    5) reading, reading, reading
    6) embarrassing addiction to chocolate Nesquik powder with hot milk
    7) Xfinity OnDemand viewing of the old Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, and Mary Tyler Moore shows
    7) Airborne chewables (2 a day–haven’t had a cold in 7 years)
    8) getting outside to take photographs of the beautiful winter light at sunrise and sunset and just breathing deeply
    I know it’s a long list, but whatever works, right!?

  18. Meagan Maher says:

    The things saving my life right now are:
    1) Religiously putting time aside on Sundays to plan the week ahead. Filling up my Passion Planner with time blocks for literally everything (the usual work and wellness time blacks, meal/prep times, transit time, down time, even reading time!) and seeing how all my time could be most effectively spent makes me feel so much more structured and helps me cut back on wasted time. My life feels so much more intentional this way. Secondary to this, plugging my phone in far away from my nightstand so I cannot waste 1-2 hours scrolling in the mornings before work is saving my life, my sanity and my plans for the day.
    2) Writing my historical fiction novel. I am really and truly enjoying the process, even moreso after I sat down with my coach last week. We set out a plan for writing which doesn’t involve a grueling writing schedule that feels like more of a punishment than a process to be savoured.
    3) Oat milk, really and truly. Not only does it taste so much more indulgent than almond milk in my tea and coffee, but it’s also better for the environment and it keeps me full longer. Delish!

  19. Beka says:

    1.) Loose leaf tea. There is something about the process of brewing, steeping, straining that I love.
    2.) Neighbor Gifts. Instead of baking and stressing about this over the holidays when everyone seems to be inundated with baked goods and too little time, we moved this to February as a little pick-me-up for both our hearts and for our neighbors. We actually started using your spiced nuts recipe. =)
    3.) Get Outside! Every morning, I drink my cup of coffee and walk around our home. It is truly a moment to observe what little furry friends have visited, where the birds are, how the sky looks, the smells. Fresh air really helps to bring clarity. It is also incredibly motivating to dream about what the garden and trees will look like in a few short months.

  20. Molly says:

    Hi Anne! I’d love to hear more about your Friday coffee planning dates! I truly think turning something that feels like a chore (grocery shopping, let’s say) into something you can kinda look forward to (because you buy an iced coffee to sip while walking the aisles) is one of the simple little keys to happiness…at least for me;) Thank you for sharing these kinds of posts – they’re always my favorite! xoxo

  21. Cyndie says:

    As an avid planner myself I would love to know what you do in your “coffee planning sessions”! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up great tips and ideas from other planners, so I humbly beg…please share!
    Right now I’m listening to audio and podcasts theses days to get through a rather difficult season of life with my mom who has some life threatening illnesses. Also good food, prayer, and conversations with my daughter. Doing this all while trying to navigate menopause. Frankly this winter has sucked. Spring can’t come soon enough!

  22. Melissa Lowery says:

    I would like details on the Friday coffee planning meeting! I’m trying to carve out dedicated time for planning but there’s always some reason it doesn’t work and it’s driving me crazy. I even finally booked myself on a solo retreat in January to rest, reflect, and plan, only to wake up on Day 2 in searing pain from a back “episode”. Had to cut my trip short, find a local chiropractor who could get me to the point that I could drive home, and spend weeks recovering instead of tackling all the plans and projects I was supposed to have outlined. But I digress. I’m always interested in the processes successful people use, the work that goes on behind the scenes. I’d love to know more about how you’re making planning more enjoyable (and consistent).

  23. Rita says:

    A hot soak in the tub w/bath salts. One of my sons & his wife gave me bath salts for Christmas & they are an enjoyable cure.
    Candlelight dinners w/music. My husband & I were doing that for the holidays & decided, why save it only for an occasion? So we nightly light a candle & play some lovely music while enjoying our dinner.
    A daily gratitude practice. At the end of the day to look over how blessed I am & seek to find something special about the day has really turned my outlook around.

  24. Esther says:

    I talk about how my favorite daily planner is seriously saving me right now. Also, the fact that the sunshine has appeared two days in a row! is amazing!! It makes things seem just a little bit better.

  25. Ann Perrigo says:

    Having survived the unending January from Hell, it can only get better from here. (To my husband and me, it was the longest month ever, and we are glad it’s over!) We spend each Monday evening with my sister. She is mostly homebound, and were we not intentional, we would never see one another! My husband loves to cook, so we take dinner to her once a week to catch up, read a new picture book (we are all huge fans!), or play a game of Farkle. Also, this year we have added two new cats to our household! We also appreciate the slightly longer days.

  26. Kacie says:

    This was my hardest January ever. My dad died. It hurts. I’m grieving for sure, but I’m also healing, slowly.

    What’s saving me right now is an upcoming vacation. We (my mom is now joining us!) are going to get some sunshine and warmth and having that to look forward to has been fantastic.

  27. KC says:

    Reading SIMPLE ABUNDANCE every morning is helping me handle winter. It helps me to focus on all the gifts I have in my life. I had the original edition quite a while ago and just purchased the new revised edition. Somedays we need a reminder of what is important in our lives. At least I do. Winter is so difficult. I think the lack of stimulation to our senses is a true deprivation. So many good comments/suggestions here to get us through this season.

  28. Hope says:

    1. I buy fresh flowers each week.
    2. Dog sitting! My husband and I had to put our almost-19 year old Jack Russell terrier Hector to sleep 4 days after Christmas. The house is super quiet without him, but neither of us is ready for another dog. We jumped at the chance to host a sweet senior beagle named Max. It’s kind of like having grandkids- we get to have pamper and have fun with him for 2 weeks, and then give him back to his mom.

  29. Trips to a chiropractor saved me this winter—I hurt my back terribly in November of 2018 while exercising and then got pregnant, and I’d been in pain ever since (to the point I couldn’t exercise and could hardly walk). My son came a month early and then I started going to the chiropractor regularly right around Christmas, and last month, I finally was able to start exercising again! Normally winter is sooooo hard for me, but this year it hasn’t felt so bad, just because I’ve been so grateful to be able to move without pain again. Nothing like gratitude to give me a giant walloping dose of perspective!

    Hope everyone in your household recuperates soon…dealing with sickness for such a long time is just so wearing.

  30. Sally Moore says:

    I try to enjoy and embrace each season, even winter which is my least favorite. Instead of trying to recreate the warmer months, I simmer pots of soup and chili, bake bread and light a nightly fire. I listen to audiobooks and crochet blankets and slippers for people I love. I watch old movies and burn scented candles. If the weather outside is frightful, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty about staying in sweats all day long reading. When it rains, I open my window, wrap myself in a blanket and listen to nature. As I have gotten older, I try to appreciate each season, each month and each day that I have been given.

  31. Tami G. says:

    What is saving me right now is actually the off and on dreariness that comes to North Texas because I can wear cozy sweaters (thank you Anne for the sweater links!) and its not hot, yet! My husband as he does the laundry and cooks quite often since we have become empty nesters and I feel I have lost my purpose at the moment and looking forward to our ski trip this weekend where I get to see my oldest son and daughter-in-law.

  32. Allison says:

    February is the HARDEST month for me. So many of my loved ones have passed away or have had significant dates in this short month: both my mother and mother-in-law had birthdays on the 2nd; my Dad fell at home and was alone for over 24 hours (he’s since passed but it still haunts me) from the 9th-10th; my grandmother who raised me died on the 11th; my Mom died on the 21st; and my birth father (whom I never met-Mom was still pregnant with me) died in a plane crash as a USMC pilot on the 29th.
    Obviously, each of these events happened in different years, but the fact that their “anniversaries” all come in February are enough some years to send me over the edge. Most years, I get through by prayer, journaling, Scripture, and the abounding love of God. How else do we ever get through anything?!

  33. Colleen Eidsness says:

    What’s Saving my life right now:
    1. Keeping busy- I learned how to crochet, took some knitting classes and I am refinishing some furniture
    2. Doing the Whole 30- for my health
    3. Going to the gym- weights, yoga, spin
    4. My little corner of plants-and the pink orchid that bloomed after 4 years!!

  34. Susan says:

    Every winter I have been plagued with thumb splits and those are so painful. I had tried many things to heal them but nothing worked. On my summer visit to my dermotologist I mentioned my plight and he had a simple recommendation: Use simple cotton gloves at night after putting Valseline on my hands. At first it seem strange to sleep in those gloves but I can not tell you how much this has saved me this winter by prevention. I bought the gloves on Amazon and they weren’t expensive and I launder them too. I can go about my life without a constant pain and that has helped my attitude tremendously!

  35. Angela in NC says:

    Some reassurance about the college admissions process: It all works out. Where your child is admitted or not admitted has nothing to do with them as a person and does not reflect on your parenting. There is no perfect school. It is all about the fit, not the name on the building.

    Lesson 1: Five years ago, my daughter did not get in her dream school, my alma mater that I had mistakenly touted as the perfect school and THE goal. She ended up going to our state flagship school on full aid and fell in love with a major not offered at the expensive private school, and had a journalism job before she graduated. That school ended up being the perfect fit for her.

    Lesson 2: With my second child, the reverse has just occurred. He was surprisingly just admitted to his stretch school, one of the most prestigious schools in the country, but wants to go to a nearby in-state program where he has attended the past two summers. I know that I will have to answer lots of questions about what he is turning down and the competitive side of me finds it hard to turn down, but I truly believe that the in-state program where he feels more comfortable will be the better fit for him.

    • Emily says:

      This post reminds me of a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath that talks about some of the surprising benefits of being the big fish in a small pond. As a college professor, I can attest to the surprisingly positive things that can happen when students end up at the school they never planned on attending!

  36. Mary in TN says:

    Having navigated 3 kids through numerous college visits, I have a strong viewpoint. I recommend you visit several colleges during their sophomore years. Then ramp up and visit a bunch when they are a junior— even colleges they wouldn’t consider attending. You learn something from each visit, even it’s just a detail you dislike. Every data point helps.
    You can’t wait until senior summer and fall to start.

  37. Sarah says:

    This was refreshing and encouraging. We have also been off and on sick since November and missing lots of things because of it. Thanks so much for sharing!

  38. Alison says:

    *Reading my Bible and journaling my prayers
    *A new kitten to snuggle with
    *Weekly date with my husband at a local specialty hot chocolate place
    *Shaklee vitamins (our family hasn’t been sick in 3-4 years)
    *Plants (I always buy paper whites in the post Christmas clearance)
    *Bulky sweaters
    *Good reading lamps and blankets

  39. Tricia says:

    January was a very long month, this year, filled with hard things both personal and global. As we begin February, what’s saving my life right now:
    *Reading all of Rebecca Connolly’s books, especially the Arrangement Series and the London League Series.
    *Watching the amount of daylight grow each day
    *Focusing on what is good and right and true
    * Breathing deeply

  40. Pam M says:

    February and the lack of sunshine here in the rainy Northwest always challenge me. But for the last several years I’ve started quilting Block of the Month groups. Once a month I gather with other quilters to share the assigned block and to unveil the block for the next month.
    Morning coffee, a quiet time to reflect on my day, and walks with my dog also help me get through this dreary month.

  41. Carol Quan says:

    My husband has multiple health issues, which has made me much more housebound than I have ever been. Not only do I have to be home a lot, but there are numerous trips to the hospital where I spend my days (this Saturday and Sunday). I have had to come up with activities that allow me to unwind:
    1) Knitting-I always have one or two projects going and often get together with buddies for some knitting times when I can get out of the house.
    2) Jigsaw Puzzles-I was so happy to read your articles on jigsaw puzzles. They have always been my “go to” activity during the winter. I always have one on my card table and even my grandkids like to help. I bought all of the book ones that you recommended on one of your emails. Added them to my collection. I have been having the ‘missing piece” problem on the last two. Frustrating!
    3) Reading-I always read before, but last year it has become a great escape for me and easy to bring along on those hospital visits. It is a great escape and feels like a movie in my head. I am participating in 3 challenges this year including the MMD Challenge and am having fun picking books for the prompts.

    • Carol says:

      Two additions:
      Spending time with my grandkids-sometimes it is a challenge, but their energy is great.
      Also, WW had really saved my life. Gets me to the gym and eating healthy. It keeps me focused and has helped me maintain a weight loss for over 18 years. Their Reading group introduced me to the MMD podcast.👍

  42. Judith says:

    Here is advice a doc gave me the winter my 4 kids were ill for months. Turn off your furnace. Open your windows. Leave for at least 4 hours. Wash all bedding in hot water. It worked!!!!!! Hope this helps!!!!!!

  43. SusanK says:

    To add to the vaccine suggestion above,
    1. Read the Bible every day and hang out with like-minded people.
    2. Read, read, read, and read about reading! Read book reviews of books I’ve already read to see what other people thought.
    3. start making reservations for summer vacation. I just made an Airbnb reservation, ANNE, for Kentucky this summer! So excited to explore Horse Country, have been wanting to see it all my life.
    4. Take pictures of the snow and ice and SEE the beauty—post on Instagram and make photo books.
    5. New socks, and fires in the woodstove.
    6. Play cards with my girl friends.
    7. Watch Masterpiece Theater and British TV with my Mom every Sunday night. We have a date.
    Truthfully, I like February. It tends to be bright and sunny here in Maine, with the white snow it’s blinding—and the days are longer and the month is short!

    • Anne says:

      They’re with one or multiple team members, we have them out at someplace we love or are excited to visit, and we prioritize discussing the big picture (and not the details). 🙂

  44. Katie Leach says:

    Things saving my life right now:
    Morning walks.
    A week somewhere sunny and warm at the end of February.
    Tickets to see Anne Bogel in Milwaukee on 4/9!!!

  45. Gita says:

    Loved this post.
    As I live in a part of the world that’s mostly sunny,going to work in the morning with sunlight on my face,feeling healthy and enthusiastic,is what is a big high!

  46. Rita Morgan says:

    What’s saving me during winter? Time with friends, today was our monthly craft/sewing/sit and chat day. We always have a potluck lunch. It’s so good to laugh with friends. Second, is outside time. Today was soooo cold and windy here in sunny California but I still went out for a long walk and noticed trees budding, spring blossoms, birds and sunlight. And for my third thing, I have to go with healthy eating. I feel so much better when the food I put in my body is good for me. Watching the Super Bowl was fun but the junk food did me no good! And I try to remember I won’t be cold forever!

  47. Annette E says:

    Pickleball, reading (both print and audible), podcasts, and puzzles. Honestly, it is mostly my pickleball addiction that keeps me sane though. 🙂

  48. Caroline says:

    January felt like a deep dark hole that I fell into and couldn’t get out of. On top of winter and illnesses, my community suffered a number of losses this month and it just all felt like too much.
    Things that are saving me right now:
    1. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. We found them while researching a donation for my daughter’s birthday. I love how committed this organization is to helping these retired performing elephants live their best lives. Their newsletter is filled with information about the elephants’ daily lives, their health and their personalities. It makes the world feel a little brighter to know this organization exists.
    2. Music. I spent some time last week making a “Better Mood” playlist and listening to the results. Some of the songs are uplifting but some are just really fun to belt along with. I’m happy to say it’s working.
    3. Mental Health Days. My son has been anxious and not sleeping well since Christmas vacation. My husband and I have decided a mental health day is in order. Mental health days are good for the soul.

  49. Dana says:

    Reading, puzzles, watching favorite old movies are all saving my life right now. Also re-watching The Great British Baking Show while I dabble in the kitchen. Making homemade soups ( especially chicken noodle) and breads, drinking lots of teas of different kinds are also saving me. And yes to fresh flowers! My favorites are daisies, so having those sitting on my kitchen table really perks me up. This year, for some reason, January felt like it was 57 days long, so turning the page on the calendar and seeing March only a month away also helped!

  50. Carrie says:

    Going one day, one moment at a time and trying to be incredibly present. 2020 has been a roller coaster already and the only thing saving my life is being in the moment and only dealing with what is present right now.

  51. Johanna says:

    I think about this question every so often throughout the year.
    One of the things that’s making the biggest difference in my life right now is making it a priority to ask my inner critic what she is thinking every single day.⁠ I never thought I’d name conversations with my inner critic as something that was saving me, but it’s changing how I feel and growing my trust in myself.⁠


    • Rachel says:

      That’s interesting. I wonder if engaging with your inner critic every day makes the critic a little less likely to just pop in when you aren’t expecting it.

  52. DDH says:

    On a similar note, in a previous career I REALLY HATED having to go to the employee Christmas party. And there was no way to get out of it. So – every year I bought a new dress. And I got my hair done. And made my husband dance at least one dance with me. It didn’t make me any happier to anticipate the Christmas party, but at least I had something to feel good about!

  53. Amanda says:

    Morning exercise! It perks me up and helps my mood through the day. Drinking tea is getting me through the cold, dreary days. Also, Michael’s — I found some great spring decor there and switched over early to help me get through the gloomy winter months. (Straight from Christmas to spring here for my decor.)

  54. Katie says:

    I love Trader Joe’s flowers, too! They are bright, beautiful, and LAST. I do the same thing each winter. We live in the Boston area so it is very gloomy and cold for a long time, and it truly helps to see a burst of color on our kitchen table. I also love what you said about Friday coffee planning meetings. We homeschool and Fridays are our day to gather around the kitchen table with a pot of tea to read, paint, and relax. After, I always find myself better prepared to plan for the week ahead.

  55. Christine Scott says:

    My new part-time job as a library clerk. I’ve been home full-time with my kids the past eight years, and this has been a wonderful adjustment. I love telling patrons that I loved the book they are checking out. Also, the moments each day that my husband and our two children can connect with one another. Sometimes it is over a shared dinner, or a story. I love when it is by the fireplace, cozying on the couch.

  56. Awww Anne, I love that you still take the time to really think about the things that are saving you with everything that you’ve got going on ❤️ and that you share it with us – it’s a timely reminder for me to do my own stocktake of life-savers! I’m afraid mine is a bit cliche, but it’s true: great books! Rabbits For Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum and In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado have been absolute life-savers for me these past couple months, highly recommend!

    • Anne says:

      I JUST downloaded In The Dream House on Libro.fm, so it feels serendipitous to see you mention it here. I’m so glad you’ve found books that are saving you in this season.

  57. Marilynn Patterson says:

    Reading, sleep and talking to the right people!! A broken hand with complications has left me unable to do much for myself for many weeks. I am so frustrated and my body is so sore from the lack of activity. Talking with great friends, great listeners, especially about books, has brought so many things in perspective. My therapist asked me what’s the positive thing you’re taking away from this injury and I realized it was that I had been forced to slow down and I could finally sleep and sleep and sleep and not feel guilty about it. I intend to carry that forward with intention. And, a few others… But that’s another post!

  58. Brenda says:

    Show-tunes playlists on Spotify are saving my life right now. They are allowing me to tune-out what’s going on around me, and tune-in to music that brings me joy and great memories (Hamilton sing-along for the win am I right?).

  59. Amy says:

    Please don’t spare the details on the Friday coffee planning meetings! It sounds delightful and like exactly the sort of thing that would be very helpful to me this winter! I see a lot of us in the comments who agree that we want to hear more about this!

  60. Ginger G says:

    Working from home on Fridays is saving my life right now! I love having a head start on the laundry before the weekend hits.

  61. Kara Middleton says:

    Anne, after seeing your jigsaw puzzles and hearing you talk about them on Instagram, I asked for one for Christmas, received it, and now have no fewer than 50 of them on my Amazon wishlist! I am obsessed and loving it, so thank you for that!

    Things giving me life right now:

    My cat (what’s new?)


    ASMR Ambience videos on YouTube, featuring fireplaces, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings scenes and music, rainstorms, blizzards, etc. I highly recommend these. They help me sleep, help me relax, and they’re awesome to have playing while I’m reading.

    Lastly, reading is saving my life. Again, that’s not new, but is especially a factor right now, for some reason.

  62. Annika says:

    Oh Anne I LOVED this post. The Friday planning meeting idea is a real game changer. I have always been meal planning but especially since having a newborn it was more spontaneous and to be honest because I wasn’t doing it consistently it kept stressing me out. This past Friday I took the baby with me to a coffee shop and planned my coming week while eating a delicious pastry. It was the best (baby was calm) and I feel much more relaxed about our meals this week now. I will definitely make this one of my weekly rituals. 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration!!

  63. Rachel says:

    Late to the game here, but here are three things saving my life right now. 1) Feeding the birds. I seem to do this more in the winter than any other season. It gets me outside and gives me something to enjoy about looking out the window when it’s too cold to spend a lot of time outdoors. My youngest daughter always “helps” me bring the bird seed and peanuts out and my oldest has been naming all of our birds and squirrels.
    2) My Hallmark card exchange group on Facebook. Getting cards for the different holidays and picking out and sending them really lifts me up. I may be one of the few people who still enjoys paper cards, but it makes me happy.
    3) Saturday Night Live. I go through phases of watching this show and hadn’t been watching in awhile, but caught it right before Christmas with Eddie Murphy and have been adding this to my DVR queue. A good laugh on these dark winter days really helps.

  64. Jolie says:

    Actually, for me, the thing that’s quite literally saving my life is books. In December I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, inoperable, nothing to be done. Six weeks to six months. But I have a TBR pile that won’t quit, and neither will I. I listen to books (Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny was so gorgeous I wept), I read on my kindle (Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant was sublime)and I’m not going anywhere until my must reads–over two hundred–and must try books to discover have all been read. Thanks for What Should I Read Next for giving me such joy and new books for so long!

  65. Donna says:

    Love this post. As a planner, I’d love to know more about the difference between the chore of weekly planning and your new Friday coffee planning meetings. Maybe a future post?

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