Emotionally Preparing for Winter This Year
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Growing up in the Midwest, I have survived some tough winters, but winter is BY FAR my least favorite season. Colorado winters on the front-range work for me: it snows, it’s pretty, it melts. Yet, snow isn’t the only thing that can make winter tough. It is a season where people tend to get sick more often, it gets darker much earlier, and we can feel naturally pulled to hibernate (stay home/ sleep) more. In addition, the holiday season can be filled with expectations, uncomfortable conversations, financial strain, and increased alcohol/food intake, which can impact how we feel about ourselves and those around us.
I think the big challenge of this upcoming winter (which technically arrives December 21st) will be ongoing physical-distance on top of all of the other aforementioned factors. While some enjoy more time at home during this season, not all do. And, even those that choose to spend more time at home -cozied in- aren’t usually required to do so. With increasing restrictions and urgent messages to “stay safe”, it can feel like another layer of difficulty piled onto a year of it.
So, how do we get through this time?
I think the answer to that is very personal for each of us- but 4 areas that I am focusing on are:
3) Prioritizing Happiness
4) Finding Acceptance
Having a solid routine or structure for your day can be incredibly helpful for increasing organization, decreasing anxiety, battling depression, increasing productivity, and even feeling purposeful. Throughout the pandemic, routines and structure have shifted so many times. It is fair if you threw up your hands at some point and abandoned the idea of maintaining a routine during this unpredictable time. Is that working for you? If not, even breaking the day into chunks of what you are going to focus on -getting the kids started with school, emails, phone calls, movement- can be helpful. Waking up and knowing a general outline of what your day will hold is an area where we can remove unpredictability and have control.
Connection is also incredibly important, but I know “Zoom fatigue” is a real phrase that captures the exhaustion of increased screen-time felt by many. While I think virtual connection can be extremely convenient (yay teletherapy!), getting creative with how we can interact with those in our personal lives may be key this winter. If you live with others, scheduling weekly game night, movie night or physical activity with them can be a good break from screens. If you live alone, choosing a book to read/discuss with a friend, writing letters, or scheduling a physically distanced hangout can be good options, too. Everyone’s comfort-level with interactions is different, listen to yours! Ultimately, having to find new ways to connect with loved ones and supports is not ideal and that is valid.
With so much stress and uncertainty around us, tapping into happiness is an amazing strength. Happiness is definitely not always easy to come by! Do you know what, who, and where makes you happy? Was it putting up your Christmas tree in October? Is it getting up earlier to make a full breakfast in the morning? Is it allowing time to watch old movies or re-read old books that you know you enjoy? Is it simplifying meal planning? Is it playing more music? Is it getting ready in the morning even if you don't have to? Is it lighting more candles? Whatever little things are bringing you warmth, happiness, or even joy right now- do them. Use them. Embrace them. Acknowledge them. Tap into the little things and prioritize them. This is another area we have control over.
Finally, it can also be really powerful to accept that there are a lot of areas where we don’t have control right now. There may very well be cancelled plans, cancelled events, additional lock-downs, employment changes, and school changes that we cannot predict at this time. A key to acceptance is knowing that it doesn’t mean we agree or like what is happening, but that we stop fighting it. Understanding that rejecting reality doesn’t change it, and to change reality we have to accept it. One way to start this process is through mindfulness, increasing awareness of how we feel, where we feel it and if there are things in our control to do about it.
We can know that time will pass and hold hope that things will improve, AND it can still feel daunting to look out over the next couple of months and consider things not changing much. If you feel like tapping into routine/structure, connection, happiness, or acceptance is really challenging, reach out for support! This is an extremely challenging time and you don’t have to navigate it alone.