We are all June when second winter hits
It’s officially the kick-off of what I like to call “second Winter” here in the midwest. In Chicago, November and December are typically relatively mild and filled with holiday magic. January is long, cold, and grey. Then February hits, and the reality that we really have two more months of winter (as March is typically also bitter and cold) sets in–it’s really, really hard not to feel discouraged this time of year. Second winter is usually the hardest time for me. But I’ve been working on it this year, trying to put little steps in place to stop resisting it so much. And it’s working!
A reader recommended the book Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May to me, and said it’s completely changed her outlook on “wintering”–a verb that can be taken literally as the act of living in winter–and more figuratively–as in, enduring a particularly low or hard phase of life. Unfortunately, I am dealing with both definitions of wintering at once. Which is maybe why this past January felt so unbelievably hard at times. But I’ve been enjoying listening to the book while on my daily walks (I’m still working my way through it) and thought I would mention it here, in case it interests you too!
Below, I’m sharing some little things that have been really helping me through this season. None of these are revolutionary, but are good reminders of how little actions add up to significant changes. I hope this post is helpful if winter is challenging for you, too!
Going for a walk outside every day (especially when its sunny)
This one is definitely the most important on the list. There have been so many winters when I’ve holed up inside for days on end. This is one of the perks of having a kid–is that it forces you out of the house to do daycare drop-off twice a day–but still. Getting out of the house for a walk, every day, without fail, has really helped me this year. I’ve found that planning for it at the same time every day ensures it gets done. And also I feel a much bigger difference in my mood if I take my walk in the morning vs. the evening.
There’s something about starting the day in the cold, crisp air, and being forced to appreciate the things you wouldn’t normally notice: The way the winter sun reflects off the snow, a dog’s excitement to be running through the frosty grass in the park, neighborhood kids walking to school in their giant puffy outfits and flushed cheeks. It helps set a positive tone for the day, rather than starting it stewing inside, counting down the many days until warmer weather hits.
Wearing my Apple Watch to motivate me to move
On that same note, I decided to start wearing my Apple Watch again–something I haven’t done consistently since before June was born. I haven’t felt the pull to really “work out” in so long, but focusing on moving vs. “working out” has made a big difference in my mindset, and my mental health! Most days I walk for exercise (I love wearing my Bala weights to help get my heart rate up. And/or I’ll do a combo of running and walking!) and a couple days a week I’ll do a P.Volve or Melissa Wood Health workout–both of which I love because they have so many workouts that are only 15-30 minutes, are low-impact, but great strength-focused videos!
Putting on real clothes
I feel like our definition of “real clothes” may have changed a lot in the last couple of years. 😂 But what I mean by this is–not wearing sweats or pajamas all day. Putting on a real outfit, that makes me feel cute! Winter essentials like these fleece-lined leggings and thermal under-layers are a game-changer. I’ll usually layer a cozy chunky knit sweater on over a thermal undershirt. And pair it with a cute matching beanie. (I love these, these, and I own this one in multiple colors so I have one that goes with every outfit.) I love a good “stay in and be cozy” day in the winter. But it’s not sustainable for everyday–nobody feels ready to take on the world in sweats!
Using my SAD light
I have been setting up my SAD light near my computer and whether or not it’s a placebo–we’ll never know–but I do think it helps lighten my mood, especially during these very gloomy stretches we’ve been having in Chicago. (I swear, sometimes we go two weeks without seeing the sun.) Mine is a couple years old, but this one is very similar!
One of the best pieces of advice my mom has ever given me about life is to stop resisting the things you cannot change. To give in, and just flow with them, rather than against them. (Note, this applies strictly to the hard parts of life that are not within our control–it doesn’t mean to stop fighting for your dreams, for a better world, etc.)
How it applies here: getting up every day and thinking “I hate winter, poor me, I hate it so much. I can’t do it anymore” isn’t doing me any favors. But accepting that it’s hard, and that I can flow through it, while simultaneously looking to lean into the things I love about winter–that will make it bearable, and at times–allow me to find joy in it, too.
The example of this I envision in my mind is a river. If you’re constantly resisting, swimming upstream, you’re going to move down the river anyway (it’s inevitable). But it’s going to be a very slow, exhausting, and painful journey. If you let go, and flow with the river, it’s going to be a much smoother, quicker ride. (Of course, this is an easy thing to say, but challenging in practice–though I’m trying!)
Leaning into cozy rituals and a slower pace
All of the above being said, I cannot change winter. But I can stop fighting it and lean into it instead. One way I have found to do that is to embrace cozy rituals I’ve come to love, like…
- Turning my heating pad on so I crawl into a nice, warm bed each night.
- Taking advantage of it getting dark early. Because it means more time for rest and more time for reading (my favorite way to unwind).
- My new morning ritual of making a cup of hot coffee for myself every morning in my Palmpress.
- Holing up in a coffee shop to get some work done, which is always much more cozy and for some reason, more enjoyable, than in the summer when I just want to spend as much time as I can outside.
- Long, slow, leisurely weekend days while we have them–where we have nothing on the agenda. When summer comes, the days are inevitably packed with plans.
- Cozy nights in, by the fire, cooking a hearty meal together.
Booking trips to look forward to
You likely know by now that my motto is always take the trip.
Taking a trip with my friends to Big Sky in mid-January completely refilled my cup in a way that only spending uninterrupted time with your best friends can. I feel like it was a complete reset that allowed me to feel like I have it in me to get through our last stretch of frigid, gloomy weather. It’s crazy how often we forget how restorative it is to surround yourself with people who recharge you. It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip–go stay with your out of town friends you’ve always wanted to visit or rent an affordable cabin up north.
The other thing that always gets me through the long cold months is having a warm weather escape booked at the end of the season that I can look forward to. We are going to be spending a couple weeks in Florida this March and to me it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. It signals that “I’ve made it” because by the time we come back, I know winter will be almost over, and summer will be here before we know it.
(…which will then be crazy busy–and then I know I’m going to miss winter when it’s gone. 😉)
I hope this helps! ♥️ If you’re in a winter funk, sending you a big hug!