If, like me, you live in a place where winter is a thing, you've undoubtedly developed a set of self-care tactics to ensure your survival throughout this frigid season. Today, I want to share my self-care routine with you in the hopes that a few little things will stand out for you and make your winter just a tiny bit easier.
Ultimately, though, this is little guide is directed towards myself. Next December, when the shock of the sun setting at 4:45 in the afternoon hits me in the head like a frying pan of depression, I can just google my own advice and try to follow it. Future Julia, I just want to tell you that one day, birds will chirp again. In the meantime, make the most of your freezing cold down time.
So, Julia, here's what to do when ________ happens in February 2018.
1. You're feeling blue
Know that the reason you feel like crap is 90% due to the weather, lack of sunshine, and dwindling signs of flourishing life, and a lot of people around you feel the same way. It's okay. The other 10% could be real stuff, and since it's coming out to say hello, you might as well engage in a conversation. Time to leave a job or relationship that is making you unhappy? Feeling ready to do a little bit of work on your 'self'? This slow season is a great time to do so. Try keeping a journal, communicating with your buddies (if it feels right), and seek out a therapist if you want. Remember: don't be too hard on yourself or things that are bugging you. Keep your inner dialogue chill, and take your time hashing it out.
Some of the best advice I've ever gotten when feeling blue is to care for myself as though I am a child. That means all the physical & emotional comforts you'd give to a kid who had a really, really bad day: macaroni & cheese, romantic comedies, and soothing, comforting words. It's so easy to blame ourselves and not actually care for ourselves when we have bad days.
I am also very pro-sanctuary. Find your little space. Make it look and feel calming to you, burn some incense, candles, and spritz some peppermint water around the room (literally just peppermint essential oil and water in a spray bottle). Bring in all the objects around your house that bring you the most joy as a reminder of the beautiful things in your life. If you don't have space for a sanctuary for whatever reason, go to a spa and hang out in the waiting room, and lie about having an appointment much later that day. Spas know what's up with those sanctuary vibes!
Recommended Resources: Beat the Blues
Anxiety Slayer Podcast: Sit back and listen to two ladies provide you with useful tools for facing anxiety, and know that you aren't alone in your feels.
2. You're bored
For some, a feeling of productivity is all that's needed to lift yourself out of a slump. For this, I recommend the first step to be doing one, tiny thing that makes you feel productive. Don't try to complete a huge project, just something very small. Maybe the next day, or next week, you do it again, or take on something bigger. Build and grow at your own pace.
When you're lost in a winter wonderland, that one tiny piece of productivity can tether you to your summertime self and remind you that you have passions, that things bring you joy, and that you bring value to the world.
So, what's the project? It could be cleaning out the fridge, or even just throwing out the really old pickles, and that's it. Go for a walk in the park, or if that seems like too much effort, just go for a walk around the block. Count your change. Read one wikipedia page about a topic you're curious about. Start with something small, and then build.
If you can't think of a project, your project can be brainstorming about the things that make you happy, and you don't even have to do any of them.
Here's my list of winter boredom pick-me-ups:
- Walk to the beach, or watch 'The Beach'.
- Go to a matinee: the cheesier, the better.
- Read anything.
- Buy a nice magazine, and read it in a coffee shop. No screens allowed.
- Same as above, but in an ice cream parlour.
- Listen to a podcast I've never listened to before.
- Go thrift shopping and treat myself to one thing.
- Explore a new hood or pocket of my city.
- Go to a museum or art gallery.
- Do yoga. Obvious!
- Write a story, even though I've never really done this before.
- Get a massage, when the $ feels like NBD.
- Clean the house and donate some things.
- Organize some digital clutter.
- Go for a nice meal by myself and maybe even enjoy a glass of wine alone. The single women always do in movies when they're home alone in the evening.
- Make some kind of art.
3. You're feeling icky about #Netflixandchilling
A few weeks ago, I was doddling around my house, putting off going to work at my studio. I felt a little bit sleepy, so I decided to watch an episode of The Office. I started to feel paralyzed, and one episode turned into four! The day was passing me by, and I wasn't feeling relaxed or re-energized. It felt like time was passing so quickly, and I felt guilty and icky. Not a valuable way to spend a day.
A week later, I woke up with a cold. I wasn't going anywhere that day, and I was ready to lean into a good old fashioned sick day. I made tea, took medicine, prepared a big snack tray, wore the coziest PJ's, and took a minute to pick out an interesting documentary. I took a shower to feel refreshed and clear my sinuses, and then watched an old comedy. More tea, and a bit of staring out the window followed. I felt so relaxed at the end of the day, even though I was sick.
That's when I learnt the difference between deliberate relaxation and paralyzed sloth sitting. You can't be lazy about your leisure, or else your big day of #netflixandchill will be guilt-ridden and wasted. Take a minute before you sit down on the couch to check in with yourself - what are your needs, what are your wants? What's something you can watch that's artful, educational, or hilarious, and will really add value to your lil brain? Drink some tea and calm down before you try to pacify yourself with mindless TV.
Pro-tip: During those blizzard or sick-day couch marathons, avoid screen paralysis by engaging in another activity at the same time, like puzzling, colouring or doodling. More tuning into yourself, less tuning into the screen in front of you. Also, Netflix isn't the only way to chill. If you find you don't actually relax when there's a screen in front of you, remind yourself of what does truly relax you.
Recommended Resources: Fun Sick Day Movies!
4. Your body wants to hibernate, too
We all have those days when we wake up and feel like shit, and they happen a lot more frequently in the winter months. Within moments of opening your eyes, you may have decided that today is not a day you're going to go outside, and you're definitely cancelling all of your plans. That's okay, that's what winter is good for. Still, you want to make sure you're still taking care of your body. If your body feels bad, it's will be even harder to tackle all that mental stuff we just talked about.
Replace your morning Facebook scroll with a big glass of water. Think about how you slept - was it a good sleep or a bad sleep? Do you feel rested?
Next, or at least before noon, take a shower, even if you're not planning on going anywhere. Pajamas definitely feel more cozy when you put them on when you're clean, and that's a scientific fact.
When you need that comfort food, I say go for it, but remember that on the reg, meals that don't have a lot of good things in them will make you feel sluggish. If a big salad holds zero appeal to you during a blizzard in February, that makes sense. Try to find a middle ground - add a bunch of kale to your macaroni, or make a big snack platter that's mostly cheese with some sliced fruits and veggies. Man, I love snack platters! I try to eat more cooked stuff than raw, and the warmer, the better.
And the biggie: move your body, even just a tiny bit. There are a zillion 5-minute yoga videos that you can do in bed - just some stretches that will wake you up. If you're in the mood for a little more zest, but you still don't want to go outside, there is nothing wrong with practicing your dance moves alone in your living room - those summer nights in da club are gonna happen sooner than you think, and you definitely don't want to be out of practice.
Here's a great online yoga class for any it's-not-summer-bummer vibes:
This January-February-March bummer-breaker plan is what (sometimes) works for me, but it could be completely different for you. My hope is that maybe one or two things that you read jumped out at you, or sparked an idea for self-care. Try it all out. At the very least, know that you're not alone - sometimes the cold wind can be refreshing and skating can be magical, but sometimes winter just fucking sucks. Taking care of yourself is your greatest priority, and is the best thing that you can do not just for yourself, but for the people in your life.
What are your bummer-killing tips & tricks? I would love to know.
Yours in February solidarity,