January is the worst.
Somehow, the cold that made me feel cozy in December chills me right through in January; the lights that looked festive a month before now seem dim and kitschy; the warm sweaters I loved to wear through fall and Christmas are suddenly restrictive straight jackets. There's a reason that the curse C.S. Lewis dreamed up in his Chronicles of Narnia series was "always winter, never Christmas." Because if you're like me, the sole redeeming quality that winter has to offer is Christmas.
Well, folks. Christmas is over. The letdown can be rough, particularly if you're stuck inside after all the family time after the gauntlet of the holidays. If you struggle at all with seasonal depression, this could be the time it sets in—when it's cold and dreary and spring seems like a far-off impossibility. Sometimes, while I'm bundled up on my couch staring out the window at even more snow, I wonder out loud to my kids, "Will I ever be warm again?" Yeah, I'm a little dramatic.
The other day, I wrote two lists. One was titled "Why January Sucks," and the other "What Can I Even Do About January?" It was my coping mechanism—let's plan this out and make the middle of frozen winter a little warmer. The best decision I made in my planning was to turn to my Instagram friends (man, I love those people—jump on board if you want to join in this incredible community).
These smart people came through and had some solid ideas for me, and I've already implemented a few of them. In the spirit of sharing the wisdom, I've put their ideas and my own together into a list for you.
1. Embrace What's Good About Winter
Several of my Insta friends suggested getting outside for some winter-only fun like skiing and sledding. I'm not a skier (*looks toward two children, deadpans to camera*), but we have gotten out to sled with the kids and the squeals were worth the cold. There are other things, of course, that you can celebrate about winter without going outside: favorite knit sweaters, long evenings inside by candlelight, being snowed in with family, more time to read... I'm trying here, you guys.
2. Cozy Up
Maybe you've heard about the Danish tradition of "hygge," the intentional choice to cozy up, rest, and enjoy simple pleasures. This video makes me feel like winter isn't so bad after all, as long as I have nice socks and hot beverages and a warm living room. Even just lighting a candle, pouring some tea, and using the cold as an excuse to snuggle can make the frigid temperatures bearable.
3. Think Green
Green things are coming. Spring is on its way (somewhere under the frozen tundra). Remind yourself of that with a few new house plants. This is the time of year that I visit my favorite local plant nursery and stroll their greenhouse—it's like visiting an oasis. Bring home a few bulbs to watch grow, force some paper whites. There's plenty of research to support this—nature has been proven to lift our moods and ease depression.
4. Seek Sun
Where I live, we have this nasty word that comes up at least once a year: inversion. We live in a valley, and "inversion" is the meteorologist's term for "tears wept into your soup in January." Or, put another way: you won't see the sun for a few weeks. Luckily, we can get out of the inversion by driving a few hours out of the valley and gaining some elevation. If there's an option for you to go somewhere sunny, do it. If not, consider buying a "happy light" or another light therapy lamp to get some indoor rays.
5. Fight the Hibernation Urge (a little...)
I need to take this advice to heart right now because (whoa) I haven't left the house since Monday. It's Friday. (Hubs and I share a car at the moment, so I haven't been able to get out, and we've had a snowpocalypse.) It's tempting to stay inside, cancel all plans, and go under the blankets until spring. Sure, stay comfortable, but don't let yourself get too cabin feverish. Have some friends over if you can't bear to leave the house, or head down to a coffee shop and get something warm to drink. Get outside, if you can, even for a short 10-minute walk. I promise you'll feel better.
6. Tread Lightly With Resolutions
I've found that the expectations I set for myself are correlated with how content I am with my life. If my expectations are sky-high and unrealistic, even a decent day or week will leave me deflated. This time of year is like candied poison for a type-A overachiever like me since it seems like I now have the power to plot out a "perfect" year full of lofty goals. It's good to stay focused and goal-oriented; it's harmful to overwhelm yourself with visions of unachievable ideals. Maybe give yourself some time to think about what you want your year to look like, or better yet, reflect on lessons from your previous year and move forward with intentions instead of terrifying plans. Whatever you do, be gentle with yourself.
Spring is coming, friends. We'll make it. Until then, come sit on my couch with me—feel free to bring wine.
If you're struggling with more than a case of the winter blues, please know that there's help. The third Monday of January is called "Blue Monday," a recognized phenomenon, and a time that sees a spike in suicide rates. You're not alone. If you're struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please, seek help. The suicide prevention hotline is always available: 1-800-273-8255. These words from Sam Lamott are also so true.