Sunday, November 10, 2013

Survival guide for Dark Times

This morning I woke up and… it snowed. The type of snow that won’t stick around for long but is a good reminder to remove the last garden chairs and maybe the hose that is still lying around in the lawn. The snow might be gone an hour after snowing but the day is still dark. You catch yourself watching Food TV again, early on a Sunday morning, because Rachel Ray cheerfully cooking meals for the week makes you feel fuzzy inside although you don’t really listen and watch. It is so dark that the lowest aperture on the expensive camera won’t be sufficient to create non-fuzzy photos. A blanket of a dark filter covering the sky, a definite mood damper, and you wake up with a sudden grump about life.

The winter times have begun.

How to survive it?

It is typically also the time to drink hot chocolate, eat soul warming chillis, drink wine, and eat more chocolate in a Bridget Jones kind of way. All good ways to fight the darkness, especially good if you also start wearing sweat pants permanently.

However, how do deal with it without gaining a life vest?



Here are my tips.

  1. Make a plan for the day. Since there is little to do besides booking a ticket to Florida or California to change the daylight impact, make a plan of things to get down over the course of the day. Things you need to get done anyhow (clean the digs, grocery shopping, some work), things you would like to do (a photo book, learn 1h of French). Just pick 3-4 things, and get busy doing them. The rewards comes in the rate of getting them done. It also prevents to fall into the bottomless pit of “I can’t motivate myself to do anything today”. The bottomless pit can be really deep, and watching TV all day (although it seems the most natural thing to do) will convert you into a super grump by nightfall.
  2. Get out of the house in the fresh air. I can’t stress this enough. Fresh air = instant mood enhancer. If you are a runner, run. If you are not, bundle up, go for a walk. Take your favorite friend/dog/cat with you. Load your ipod with an audiobook (something funny, something Jane Austen, music?), and walk for at least 30 min. I once read that people who live in areas so high up North they don’t see daylight for more than a few hours in the winter time never get winter depression. Why? Because they still spend a lot of time outdoors, kids play soccer with flood lights, ice skating, you name it. Get some fresh air.
  3. Get moving.  See point 2. If the weather is likely to bang some branches over your head or blow you away, at least open a window and walk on the treadmill for 2 Miles.
  4. Don’t protest the dark time, accept it, move on. One of the best ways to ruin one’s mood is to play “Poor me! Why why why is the weather shitty today?”. We typically finds many others  to complain with in unison, a group Poor-Me, however it also makes no one feel any better. At all. Move on. Wishing you’d live in Paris/California/South Pacific right now won’t change the weather, really. But it will create a wedge between yourself and the here and now, a good recipe to be unhappy. Accept, and move on. (No one said anything about liking it.)
  5. Appreciate the cozy aspects of life. Say “ah, the perfect weather to enjoy a Spa treatment, or soak in the tub with some candles and a good book, or set up some winter decor, bake some muffins or a bundt cake, invite some friends over and chat over hot tea.”  Knit a sweater! Think Swiss alpine hut with snow and hot mulled wine. Think Vermont barn yard with a wood stove.
  6. Define some joy points in your day. A joy point is something in the day to look forward to. What will be, could be the highlight of your day? For me it sometimes is to get out of town, eat at a really delicious restaurant, have a meet with friends over a glass of wine. Sometimes, there are no joy points in a day when you think about it in the morning, there are just a long list of obligations. Never mind, that is fine, too. Getting them done also makes you feel better in the evening. But always at least give it a thought, and when you find something joyous, be sure to do it.
  7. Hydrate. Makes sure to drink enough water. When it is cold outside we often feel less need to guzzle water, but hydration is still important in the darker times to keep energy up. Fresh juice. Vitamin C!

And with that, I am off to get going.

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