How to Cure the Winter Blues, Pt.2

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Before I moved to Denmark, I had a hard time understanding why so many schools and workplaces had a scheduled winter break already in early to mid February. After living here for a few winters now, I totally understand it. The winters can really get to you here. The low light levels, grey skies, freezing wind and snow, biking through the brown slush - it's just not all that romantic. The first winter I moved here I wrote about the winter blues already in November, then each year after that. This year it hasn't really bothered me until this last week, where it seemed to all catch up with me at once. I just had no energy or motivation to do anything but lie in bed. After trying to push through for several days and just feeling miserable, I decided to take a mental health day. I've done this for years and find that it really helps me to feel recharged instead of burning out more. So I spent the day reading, knitting, drinking tea and baking cookies. Since she was having a similar week, Nicola and I decided to take a break from our pity parties and visit the Botanical Gardens on Friday afternoon. It's one of my favourite places to go in the winter, since you feel like you are instantly transported to somewhere warm and tropical. I even went there for my bachelorette, I like it so. Of course because we are goons, we arrived after the closing hours (3pm, for anyone living here) so instead had to make do with a walk around the grounds. Luckily it was still gorgeous, all filled with fresh snow at dusk. Winter, you aren't bad all the time. I also resolved to do more to help combat the doldrums, and thought I would revisit and add to the list that I made years ago with some of the things that have helped.

1. Light, light, light. This is still the biggest one for me. We have both the Philip's energy light and the wake up light and I use them every day, as well as candles, string lights and my new salt crystal lamp (you can read about the benefits here, although Dr. Mark thinks it's total bogus). Even though I bike to school every morning I'm not really getting any real light, so I still take my vitamins religiously after getting pretty sick from being seriously vitamin D deficient a couple of years ago. You can read more about it here on Tina's great blog.

2. Exercise. Since I'm not biking as much as I used to (yay for a ten minute commute!), I've had to get more serious about fitting in exercise elsewhere. I've been going to hot yoga regularly for a while now and find that it really helps during winter. I also go to a candlelit restorative yoga class once in a while which is lovely on these dark nights. This weekend, I'm going to go swimming, which I haven't done in ages but I hope to do it more. Plus, you guys know how much I love saunas. I'm sure that it's all about finding whatever exercise you like, but I've found that being warm is a big bonus for me in the colder months.

3. Getting up early. I never, ever thought I'd be able to be a morning person (and I'm still not), but I can say now after months and months of trying, that I really love getting up a couple of hours before school and having lots of time for my morning routine. I usually crawl back into bed with a cup of tea after having breakfast with Mark so that I can read for a while as the sun comes up. It's quickly becoming one of my favourite parts of the day. It also helps the days seem longer, since you are awake for all the sunlight hours. Of course this means going to bed fairly early, but I promise you will start liking that too.

4. Eat warming foods. I wrote a little bit before about how I have been getting more interested in Ayurvedic cooking, which suggests to eat warming foods through winter like soups, curries and herbal tea. Some of my favourite recipes lately are: chai banana smoothie, baked oatmeal, african yam and peanut soup, coconut red lentil soup and gold rush soup. I've also been drinking hot lemon water and spicy herbal teas by the gallon. And although I think it makes so much sense to eat warming foods, since that is obviously what we crave during winter months, sometimes I find that I really miss lighter, fresh flavours too, so once in a while I will make something like these summer rolls with peanut sauce.

5. Staying inspired. I'm still figuring out what this means to me, but it's been a bit of a challenge since being in a program where you are expected to be constantly creative, and often on demand. So I think it's just important to make time for whatever it is that you enjoy, and to seek out new things as well. Checking out books from the library, watching documentaries, going to exhibitions or for a walk - all these things are on my list to try to make more time for. I find that when I am feeling low on energy or uninspired I resort to filling my time with more 'junk food' type entertainment which I enjoy in the short term but doesn't really do much in the long run.

What do you guys do to survive winter? Help a cold buddy out.


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