I am most definitely a Florida girl, even after 10 years of living in the frosty north. I am most often found in flip-flops. I refuse to enter water that is under 80 degrees (and that’s pushing it). And my happy place is floating on a sailboat with a frozen drink in my hand, the sun beating down on my face, and a gentle breeze cooling my skin. I don’t like the winter. Never have. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t like 5 + months of winter. One, maybe two, months is sufficient to do all the “wintery” things I like to do. More than that and, well, I deal with it but I don’t like it. I try to stay positive, but month after month of the gross sludgy snow, the biting winds, the grey skies, the lack of green ANYWHERE, and most of all the short, short days all make me feel like the light inside of me has died and will never come back again. I know I’m not alone in this. I have friends (you know who you are) for whom the changing seasons brings out a different version of themselves.
At first, winter was magical. One November afternoon in my sophomore year of college, my first year in Boston, I was sitting in my writing class, mostly paying attention, but periodically glancing out the window. The sky was cloudy and was already starting to darken even though it was only 4pm. But as I was looking out, tiny puffs of white began falling from the sky, dancing and twirling with the wind. It was like looking into a large snow globe. I felt small jolt of electricity and giddiness rise up inside. It was the first time I had seen snow falling. It didn’t stick to the ground that afternoon, but I loved it and was excited for more. Winter is kind of like that. It lures you in with its beauty and serenity and makes you forget how frigid and torturous it can be. When I came back from winter break in January, the winter storms came too. Three or four feet of snow and me in my Chuck Taylors without a real winter coat. That first winter I almost killed myself slipping on the compacted snow ice and trudging through the watery-icy sludge. My skin started to crack from the dry air and I wore as many layers of clothes as I could fit on my body. Worst of all was the seasonal depression. The drastic drop in sunlight and vitamin D intake combined with the icky and frigid winter made this Florida girl cling to her bed with the door closed and radiator turned up full blast. I’ve always been a rather energetic, optimistic person, but that first winter (and a couple after that) sucked the life out of me.
Luckily by my senior year, I had kind of figured out how to survive winter without succumbing (for the most part) to those winter blues. Here are my tips.
- Exercise. This is definitely the most important thing you can do. Not only getting out of the house, but getting your endorphins and adrenaline pumping works miracles. Try cardio and/or weight lifting 3 or 4 times per week. Anything you can do will help alleviate the winter blues. It will also just make you feel better in general and curb the winter weight that’s so easy to put on with all the winter goodies.
- Purchase the appropriate winter clothes. This is also quite important. I went through so many winter seasons relying on my sneakers or uncomfortable cheap boots to get me through the snow. Between that and a hoodless button up coat, by the time I got home I was shivering and soaked through. I finally sucked it up and got myself a Northface jacket and Jesse got me some Northface down filled waterproof boots for my birthday (the best things EVER). Seriously. They made ALL the difference. I was almost skipping through the snow.
- Learn and participate in winter activities. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Winter isn’t going anywhere and wishing you could have a picnic at the park isn’t going to help. I found that participating in some winter-y activities can help you appreciate the approach of winter. Whether that enthusiasm can be sustained or not is another story.
- Listen to your body. Your needs in the winter months are different than the summer. The air is drying and your body might need more moisturizer, both inside and out. Find some good products that will relieve any abuse from Jack Frost and don’t forget to drink lots of water. Also, you can try out the light therapy box. This is a light you sit in front of for 15-20 minutes a day that simulates sunshine (primarily the vitamin D). Research has actually shown that it can help alleviate some winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), yes, that is the actual acronym.
- Get out of the house. When all else fails, force yourself to get out of the house. Half of my bleh feeling was cabin fever. I didn’t want to go outside because it was too cold and ended up just staying in comfy clothes indoors. But every time that I actually sucked it up and forced myself to clean myself up, change clothes, and step out the door, I always felt better.
- Remember spring will eventually come. After 5 months of greyness and cold, it’s easy to think that this is what life is going to be like forever. That it will never be warm again, the birds will never return, the blossoms will never bloom. But it always does. And after a long hard winter, I have to say, you appreciate the beauty and warmth of the spring and summer that much more.
It’s a funny post to write now, with the norther hemisphere slowly forgetting the dredges of the cold months and frolicking in the new grass and flowers, but after a year of avoiding the cold weather, we are faced with the impending doom of winter down here. From what I hear, winter in Buenos Aires isn’t so bad though. No snow and the weather doesn’t drop below freezing. But the air is wet and the wind has a bite. So I am bundling up.