You know how when you buy a car, or decide to buy a car, and then that is the only car you can see on the road, even if it hardly existed before your decision?
This feels like that.
I don’t know if it is the new year, or if this is a darker than average year, or if I am reading more local writers’ blogs and twitter feeds, or if it has something to do with my age (I may be really reaching here).
Whatever it is, it seems everyone is talking about how to handle winter, how to keep their cheer from leaking out like the air in a lifeboat with a bite taken out of it (Caaaaaaaaarrrrllll), how to convince happy-happy-joy-joy to return or stick around.
There were some great suggestions in Tara’s winter rituals post and comments. Shauna recommends leaving off the sugar/butter in favour of veggies and whole grains. The Kitchn posted about favourite winter foods.
Nothing really solves the fact that every morning feels like we are hobbits dragging the ring ever closer to the fiery mountain in Mordor. Still, we have to keep up hope, we have to remember the Shire springtime, we have to take care of our bodies and our spirits.
These things help, Chez Scatterbeams; some are tried and true, some are fresh this year.
One of the best ways for me to feel better is to notice how good life is. With that in mind, I created this list of things to love about winter. Many are related to Christmas, but many are not. I read it when I need a reminder.
When I am haunted by the perpetual twilight, when the shadows get me down, my natural inclination is to hibernate, retreating into my introverted cave. This is sometimes when I most need to connect with others, commiserating or celebrating as needed, sharing a cup of tea and conversation.
These are my saving grace some days, warding off the dark with bright, warm light, starting at breakfast, and sometimes all day long. See also: flickering flames of a gas or wood fireplace.
We first tried this to combat jet-lag on a short trip to Pennsylvania. At the end of a long travel day, I dug it out of my carry-on. Kristina took hers without comment, but Ed shook his head and declined. He was polite about it, but we joked with him that he was too tough for it, he was stronger than jet-lag, and didn’t need no stinkin’ melatonin. Just give him a hammer, and he’ll be out like a light. (Melatonin is better than a hammer.) Now, we take it to help regulate sleep patterns in the gloom and dark of winter. Check with your medical professional of choice to see if this is right for you.
After Kristina’s concussion last year, she had significant sleep issues. We finally did a test that showed the level of various hormones over a sleep-deprived night. Turns out she needs to supplement (currently) with this over-the-counter naturally-occurring amino acid. It also turns out that many people supplement with this as needed for sleep and depression issues, especially those associated with seasonal changes. See: above reference to Mordor. Again, this is not for everyone; even though it is available over-the-counter, check with your medical guru.
People who live in the Pacific Northwest tend to be chronically short on vitamin D – we just don’t get enough sun. It can be hard to eat enough of the foods which naturally contain vitamin D, and not all of us take in fortified dairy products.
I won’t talk doses on any of these, because I don’t know your body. Work with someone who does to figure out what works for you. (There are blood tests to check the current levels of vitamins and minerals in your body – this is a great place to start before downing a daily bowl of capsules and tablets.)
In a care package sent to us after Kristina’s concussion (Hi, Holly!), we found a box of mixed teas. Kava Stress Relief was our favourite. We buy it on its own now, and enjoy a cup before bed. Something about a mug of hot tea is lovely any time – this blend is a soothing and fragrant comfort.
After wondering for a long time if this would help, this was the year for action from Santa. This little light sits on my desk beside my computer display. For two 20-minute sessions a day, I fire it up for some light therapy. It is VERY bright, but not in a squinty way, which feels odd. In just a few days, my sleep improved – I fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep for longer, and return to sleep nearly immediately if I do wake. On days that I don’t have/make time for it, my sleep breaks down. Placebo? Maybe. There is science behind it, but I’ll take the results, even if it is.
As committed as I can be to staying under the covers, moving my body is one of my best defences against winter misery. With as many injuries as I’ve had over the years, I haven’t always had the ability or freedom to move my body. Now that I can, I want to.
I am totally inspired by Joy Tanksley and her dance videos, and also by Sean Stephenson. There are songs that always get me moving – strictly solo dance parties for now, although I may find the mojo to record one and put it out there one day.
Favourites include: Freedom! ’90, 4 Minutes, Express Yourself, Good Thing, Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), Bust a Move, Funky Cold Medina, Love Shack, Get This Party Started, Lookin’ For a Good Time, Forever (HQ, non-wedding version here), and anything by Angelique Kidjo.
*Update: and, how could I forget this one? I Gotta Feeling
I buy the first field daffodils that show up at Trader Joe’s and keep doing it until our own pop up out of the ground. Same with tulips and irises. Their fresh, colourful faces remind/convince me that spring really will come. It will. They promise.
And there you have it. This winter feels tough. Are you hanging in there? What helps you tame the dark?