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  • Jodi Blake

Survival Tips to Quash the Winter Blues

Woman in blue puffy coat and blue stocking cap looks pensive

As the holiday season wraps up, those of us in the Northern hemisphere are now officially in the winter months. Depending on the climate where you live, you may have already experienced snowfall, freezing temperatures and cold winds. Here in the more moderate midsection of the Midwest, we are finally feeling the wintery weather effects in just the past couple weeks.


On top of the weather changes, none of us can escape the shorter days and longer nights. We’re all trying to adjust to the darkness arriving much sooner in the afternoon.


All these changes give me signals to burrow in and hibernate a bit more than when it’s warmer outside and the sunlight keeps me company longer into the evenings. I notice my overall mood becoming more subdued and my energy levels more sluggish.


That’s when I know I’m again suffering from the winter blues – that feeling that seems to demotivate my productivity levels, finds me sitting in front of TV, computer and phone screens more, and wanting to stay in bed longer and take more afternoon naps. Well, it’s not how I want to live my life. I have too much I want to accomplish, and I can’t afford to hibernate for two-three winter months. So, I decided to check out ways to keep the winter blues at bay. If you’re in a similar situation, read on for ideas you can try along with me.


Important disclaimer: If you experience deeper levels of depression during the winter months, you may have seasonal affective disorder. This blog post does not provide medical advice for this disorder. Please seek professional advice to discuss your specific symptoms.


Hand holding red pencil over a to-do list notebook

Kickstart Your Productivity

A great way to fend off the lethargy that hits me during the winter is to think about how I can keep myself motivated and accountable. Once I get past the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I then think about the new year that’s starting. It’s a chance for a fresh start. So, why not take advantage of that starting point by planning ways to stay productive?

  • Set up some challenges to accomplish goals. I’m an avid quilter and cross-stitcher, and there are lots of challenge schemes that I can participate in to meet specific goals for my craft projects. I can select the projects I want to complete on numbered lists and grids, and then a moderator announces a specific number that correlates to one or more of my projects. I then focus on meeting my goal related to those projects by the end of the month. You could search for similar challenges or create your own to help you reach your goals for the coming year.

  • Create daily or weekly to-do lists. My life revolves so much around my lists. I’m really lost without them. If I can write a task or item on a list, then my brain will stop obsessing about forgetting to do something important or picking up everything I need at the grocery store. I also enjoy checking off list items, so my natural urge to make checkmarks helps me stay more productive. (Check out my post, “Today’s To-Do: Improve Your To-Do List,” for more list-making ideas.)

  • Focus on completing tasks during the daylight hours. If the increased hours of darkness zap your energy, then plan to accomplish more during the daylight hours. Co-blogger Heather uses this strategy to be more mindful about being productive during the winter season. Then, in the evenings she doesn’t feel guilty about cuddling up under a blanket for some TV watching or book reading. So, take advantage of lunch breaks to run errands and be sure to tackle longer projects during weekend days.


Woman and man asleep in a bed

Pump Up Your Mood During the Winter

Sometimes I find that I’m not in the mood to do things when it’s cold and dreary. My overall mood seems to suffer after several days of winter gloominess.


  • Maintain a normal sleep schedule. Although it’s tempting to stay in bed longer, nestled under the covers, it’s better to stick to your typical bedtime routine and then wake up at the same time each day. This advice is hard for me to follow, as I tend to stay up later than I should. This year I’m going to focus on maintaining a more regular sleep schedule and see if it improves my overall mood.

  • Get physical – with some exercise. This tip isn’t just for staving off the winter blues. Regular exercise is a great way to maintain a more positive mood, but it can really help during the winter when we don’t tend to be as active because we stay indoors more. Heather is using a new walking pad she received for Christmas to stay more active indoors, and I’m getting started on a new walking schedule on our treadmill.

  • Add more lighting in your rooms. Maybe you set out a couple more lamps in the family room or switch to brighter white lightbulbs. I’m adding another table lamp in our family room. Also, make sure you have good task lighting for your work areas, such as at your desk or by the chair where you read.


Man and woman by a tree trunk in a snowy scene

Change Your Mindset About the Winter Blues

Sometimes we just need to change our outlook on the winter blues. Let’s celebrate what is special about the season and the things we can do (instead of what we can’t do) during these colder months.


  • Days start to get longer after we pass the winter solstice. Unless winter in your area starts in October, did you know that during most of the winter months we actually gain a little bit more daylight each day? The shortest winter day (the winter solstice on December 21) is 7 hours 50 minutes, but within three months we hit the longest winter day (the spring equinox on March 20) with 12 hours 9 minutes. In just three months, we gain more than 4 hours of daylight! While the daily increase seems insignificant, I try to remember that within a week or two I’ll start to detect longer days. Yay!

  • Take advantage of what winter offers. Instead of bemoaning that it’s too cold to be outside as much, enjoy using your fireplace or feeling cozy in warm slippers. For example, I’m not a habitual coffee drinker, but I do enjoy hot coffee-flavored beverages when it’s chilly outside. And on “warmer” winter days, don’t hesitate to go outside to play in the snow with your kids or dog. When was the last time you built a snowman or made a snow angel? Or maybe you just want to enjoy the wintery landscape with a brisk walk in the park.


 

With a little strategic planning, we can all fend off the dreaded winter blues and instead appreciate this season. Before we know it, the days will be longer, and spring will be just around the corner. Stay warm, keep your energy up, and savor this quarter of the year!


What helps you combat the winter blues? Let me know in the comments.



Woman smiling while looking at the camera

After 35 years in corporate instructional design and technical writing, Jodi retired in 2021. She and hubby Dan recently relocated from Chicago back to St. Louis. They have a daughter Rachael, who is a special education teacher, and a son Ryan, who is a senior at the University of Illinois. When not blogging, she enjoys quilting and cross stitch, studying Italian, and watching soccer and tennis.

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Khách
05 thg 1

We get 10 1/2 hours less daylight on the winter solstice than the summer solstice, and winters tend to be long and graaaaaaaaay. 😬 My advice: light therapy glasses or lamp, and at the very least a short walk outside every day. Really noticing -- and accepting -- the feel of a frigid breeze on your cheek, or the sting of air in your nostrils, or the dark clouds blanketing the sky or the tightness in your jaw can also work wonders. How lucky so many of us are "just" to be battling the winter blues! And it's A-OK to feel crappy sometimes :)

Thích

Khách
05 thg 1

Great suggestions and encouragement! I love bundling up for a walk in a nearby park on a sunny cold day, then enjoying a mug of hot ginger tea. Cheers to the chill!

Thích
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