Like it or not, winter is coming.
There’s limited sunlight, limited warmth, and this winter in particular, limited social capabilities. And in a year when many of us have been struck with loss, grief, anxiety, and uncertainty, we all need to buckle up mentally to survive this winter.
A positive winter mindset is the first step. Many more steps follow. Quick, before it snows again, let’s practice these mental survival tools I’m taking into this winter and all the winters to come.
Get your outdoorphins going.
Embrace friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv), the Norwegian concept of “free air life.” If Scandinavians can simultaneously live with the longest, darkest winters yet are consistently considered the happiest people on earth, they’re doing something—everything?—right.
Direct your energy toward things you can control.
Are you Mother Nature? I don’t think so. The weather is not in your control. (With the exception of decisions you make on a daily basis that contribute to climate change—a big, big exception.) Here’s what you are in control of: your attitude, how often you move your body, how many ounces of water you drink, how much time or money you donate toward causes you care about, what words and tone you use with your loved ones, and whether you zipper merge properly. Focus on the aspects of life you can control.
Always have something to look forward to.
So there’s no Mallorca vacation this winter. That’s okay. Clutter your calendar (or journal or the inside of your mind) with things you’re looking forward to, no matter how innocuous they seem. Maybe you’re looking forward to fifteen minutes of quiet time while your kids play in the basement. Or tomorrow morning’s coffee. In a year when time both sped up and slowed down, sometimes excruciatingly so, having something to look forward to keeps your little world turning.
Maybe you’re looking forward to fifteen minutes of quiet time while your kids play in the basement. Or tomorrow morning’s coffee. In a year when time both sped up and slowed down, sometimes excruciatingly so, having something to look forward to keeps your little world turning.
Invest in items that will make your winter more manageable.
An illuminated dog leash may not be the most thrilling purchase to cross your credit card statement, but if that’s what would make winter 2020 *thismuch* more manageable, by all means, buy it. What other purchases would make your life easier or body warmer—wool socks, a light-reflecting vest, a set of snowshoes?
These purchases can be utilitarian or entertaining, an investment or a dollar, to keep you warm or to keep you happy. Be mindful of your budget, especially now, and prioritize what would be most beneficial to you this winter.
Love and appreciate your space again.
Consider what would make your inside space, where you’ve spent more than a fair share of time lately, novel again. Hang an obnoxious amount of holiday decor if you feel the need. More importantly though, surround yourself with art, photos, pillows, wine glasses, you name it, that feel like you.
A theme for the whole year, really. Nothing lasts forever—a presidency, a pandemic, a season. Winter always turns to spring eventually, even if January seems to last longer than thirty-one days. The birds will migrate north and the lilacs will bloom. Recognizing that winter, too, won’t last forever illuminates a bright light of ramps, monarchs, and a sparrow’s song at the end of the long, cold, dark tunnel.
Winter always turns to spring eventually, even if January seems to last longer than thirty-one days. The birds will migrate north and the lilacs will bloom. Recognizing that winter, too, won’t last forever illuminates a bright light of ramps, monarchs, and a sparrow’s song at the end of the long, cold, dark tunnel.
Emphasize what’s special to winter.
Can’t make a snow angel in July, can you? Instead of lamenting on beach days and breezy dresses, pay attention to what is special to winter. My annual sip of eggnog, for one. A sweater my mother knit me that weighs at least ten pounds—that’s two. Embarrassingly early bedtimes, check.
Set mini goals.
Things feel big right now. This winter, allow yourself to take it easy, goal-wise. We’ve been running this marathon for longer than most of us imagined, and we still have many miles to go. Pace yourself. Make mini goals to mark and measure progress without getting too hard on yourself if you can barely crack through your to-do list.
Candles, coffee, grandma’s quilt. Nostalgic movies, hand-written cards, baby photos.
Commit to making memories.
When I think back on 2020, I want to spend one second remembering my summer of suffering and fifty-nine seconds remembering the brief but committed time of exclusively watching Michael Douglas movies, the homemade kombucha spritzers for backyard happy hours, and how supported I felt. Without weddings and holiday parties to host shared experiences, it’ll take a bit of effort to make memories. Worth it.
Communicate, communicate, overcommunicate.
We’re all going to manage this winter the best we can, and we’re all going to manage it a little differently. Lay out your game plan and concerns with your closest quarantine circle. Understand who is comfortable with what, the risks involved, and the sacrifices everyone is making. This isn’t a one-time conversation though, so keep the airwaves open, knowing circumstances and feelings can change on a whim.
Redirect your negative thoughts into positive ones.
You think I enjoy scraping ice off my windshield? Absolutely not. But I can blast my defrost on high and repeatedly nudge my thought patterns from negative to positive, like how lucky I am to have a car at all. Shoveling a driveway is exhausting, but hey! Congrats, your workout is done for the day. There’s always an upside. Find it.
Zoom happy hours aren’t as novel as they once were, but it’s imperative to your mental health to stay in contact with your people this winter. Humans are built for connectivity.
Remind yourself how good you have it.
Chances are you have four walls, a roof, and an adequate pair of mittens. Many others aren’t as lucky. Consider how you can help the homeless within your community this winter, from donating gently used coats to asking local shelters what necessities they’re short on to, first and foremost, being kind.
Use hygge as a psychological survival technique.
By now we all know how to hygge our surroundings. It’s not all about flickering candles and fuzzy blankets though. Think of hygge’s cozy factor not just physically but also psychologically. Pause, reflect, and find meaning in this chaos.
Happy winter. Cozy up and crack open a puzzle. See you in spring.
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er who muses about life, design and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker and more. Her life rules include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tip in cash and contribute to your IRA. Be a pal and subscribe to her newsletter Night Vision.