HELP! I’ve got the winter doldrums!
Written by Angie Bouchard
Don’t worry, guest blogger and longtime friend from Bar Harbor, Maine is here to help with the winter doldrums. This is by far the best medicine for seasonal affect disorder I’ve ever encountered.~Leslie
Winters, this one in particular, can be challenging. Too much time indoors, too many gray, heavy days with too much snow. Not enough sunlight, not enough freedom of movement. Not enough brightness. It’s easy to feel dispirited, to feel like hibernating until dandelions & new spring green leaves finally re-emerge. But in the meantime, here are some ideas to help us all get through this together. Feel free to share your own!
1. Physical movement, even when we don’t feel like it. Especially when we don’t feel like it. The closer it is to play, the better. For me, this means hula hooping. Usually with 2 or 4 hoops, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes with one hoop while juggling. Now some of you might think this is a ridiculous, undignified way for a 50-year old woman to spend half an hour, five days a week. But that’s kind of the point, because laughing & being silly & acting like a kid defeats “blah.” You know that thing you loved to do as a kid? Do more of that…or learn a new thing.
2. Dance is especially powerful in shifting mood. Choose your music mindfully & you can settle your anxiety or energize your inertia. The best weekly event my community has is Monday Night Barefoot Boogie at the Masonic Hall. Music is provided by a volunteer, admission is a suggested $5 to cover the space rental, and about half a dozen women (and the occasional male) attend. We warm up to music for 20 minutes, then circle up briefly to make sure we know each others’ names before dancing for a solid, uninterrupted hour. The lighting is dim with overhead strings of white Christmas lights. The floor is wooden & curved underfoot in places. Everyone does their own thing, whatever makes them happy. And we all sleep soundly Monday nights. Start your own!
3. Consider making the dark nights of winter your friend. Go cross country skiing on local trails after dark, or skating on a moonlit bowl of a pond. Walk onto the solid ice of a pond or lake to lie on your back & look up at the stars on a clear, cold night. Make snow angels, or a snow tiger or snow horse, under the moon. Drive somewhere near the ocean with a friend or loved one…listen to the waves with snickerdoodle cookies & a thermos of warm vanilla milk (heat up milk, a bit of sugar, some good vanilla & a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg).
4. Treat yourself to some extra decadent hot chocolate. Heat up 1 1/4 cups of whole milk & 1 cup of half-and-half on medium heat until just below simmering. (Just do it, you’ll thank me later). Remove from the heat & add 4 oz of finely chopped, really good bittersweet chocolate. Whisk until really melted. Add 1 Tbs of sugar, 1 tsp espresso powder, 1 tsp really good vanilla (Mexican vanilla is excellent). Mix well. Pour into two mugs & add generous dollops of whipped cream without second-guessing me.
5. Learn something new. Make homemade doughnuts & doughnut holes. Fry up some homemade egg rolls or potstickers. These are all so much better homemade. Take an adult ed class or an art workshop. Ask that friend of yours whose skill or talent you envy to teach you how they do it. Explore your community for new ways to extend your territory. Game night at the local library. A concert or talent show or play at the high school or local college. Anywhere people are gathering around something positive. You’ll be glad you left the house for a bit.
6. Volunteer. This winter, my time volunteering at our local SPCA has been vital in keeping my winter spirits from plummeting. It means I leave the house twice a week focused on helping out the shelter’s cats. I get to feel useful, it keeps me physically active as I do my tasks, I get to both give & receive affection from them…We all benefit. Find a local shelter of your own, a soup kitchen, a public library, your child’s classroom, your church, or a nursing home…it’s all good. My teenage daughter & I volunteer at the SPCA together…consider taking your child along with you!
7. Call a friend or two. Invite them to join you for breakfast or lunch at the restaurant you love, but you don’t want to eat by yourself. My favorite café offers a roasted veggie salad with such an amazing mix of roasted caramelized veggies over baby salad greens & drizzled with an Asian dressing that I can justify having their deliciously decadent chocolate bread pudding for dessert.
8. If possible, get outside for a half hour walk every day with the sun on your face. Lucky for me, I work at a school where I can eat my lunch while doing Kindergarten lunch duty. This leaves me free to leave for a half hour walk…& then I’m more focused & alert for the remainder of my work day. When walking outside this winter, think of taking your camera along. Ice in all its forms is a major-minor obsession with me, which helps get me out of doors with my camera.
9. Find ways to stay connected & close to family…especially the ones you live with. Do a wooden jigsaw puzzle together from the library. Play cards…even if it’s Cards Against Humanity. Eat dinner together. Watch successive, binge episodes of a TV show together on the couch while enjoying Tootsie Roll Pops or root beer floats. Challenge each other at snow shoveling. Hug. Sing loudly in the car. Throw an indoor ball around or wrestle on the bed. Laugh. A lot.
10. Finally, find a reason to have a group of friends over for a gathering, even if your house is messy. Trust me, nobody cares. They’re just delighted you asked. For me, these are Mad Hatter’s Art Parties…potluck events with my creative group of friends. Everyone brings a food item to share & a creative project they want to work on (or have been wanting to finally finish). I provide coffee, cold drinks, & some basic art project to work on. In the past, these have included artist’s trading cards (mini collages) on mini clotheslines, Valentines, shrinkable plastic ornaments, foam-board collages with 3-dimensional items, & Zentangles. If you’re not into art, you can always have a film fest of your favorite Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant comedies, have a book discussion, build snow forts, or make egg rolls together. Stay connected.
My hope is that these ideas will help you find new ways to find some spots of brightness and tackle the winter doldrums in the remaining weeks of winter. Be creative & be well. I’m wishing you all the best.