Beating Those Winter Blahs…

(First off, let me state, I am not a psychiatrist or therapist, nor do I play one on TV.  My suggestions here are not meant to replace your doctor’s advice or substitute treatment for a true depressive disorder.  They are just little tidbits I have picked up along the way to fight against those minor winter blahs.)

Historically for me, I think January and February have always been my least favorite months.  I live in Western Pennsylvania and that is usually when our true “winter weather” seems to hit.  I always feel a little let down after the holidays are over, the house seems plain without all of the holiday sparkle, and I feel pressured to make my New Year’s resolutions of getting organized and getting fit a reality!  I find myself getting more distracted with my mind wandering off to memories of family get-togethers at the holidays or anticipation of warmer days and sunshine to come!  My energy level suffers and I find it hard to keep up my productivity. In talking with other people, however, I found that I wasn’t alone in my suffering of the winter blues or how it affected my work habits and productivity.  I started to think about what I could do to boost my mood and sail smoothly into spring!  I think these tips have definitely helped me so I thought I would share them with you!

  • Exercise—Ugh, as much as I hate to do it, I do feel better afterward.  That is because exercise causes your body to release endorphins which can improve your mood and outlook on life!  Even a brisk 10 minute walk in the afternoon can give you a big pick-me-up.  If your weather permits it, throw on your running shoes and head outside for a quick trip around the block.  It will give you time to clear your head and come back to your work refreshed and with renewed energy. 
  • Start a “virtual” coffee talk club with a friend—If you have time to meet weekly with one of your friends at your local Starbucks and catch up—that is great—but even if you don’t, you can still enjoy the benefits of grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend.  Carve out a 10 minute block of time in your schedule once a week, grab your favorite cup of joe, and instant message with your friend to chat about life!  My best friend lives many states away, but taking the time to gab weekly through our instant message coffee breaks helped to bridge the distance and keep us connected.  It was “our time” that we were still able to maintain even though I couldn’t meet with her in person and our schedules were hectic. 
  • Plan for snow days!  One of the great perks of working from home as an MT is the convenience of being there when your kids’ school delays or cancels because a foot of white stuff covered the ground overnight.  I would think, “That’s okay, it won’t affect me-I can still work.”  Then reality set in as I tried to work only to have two very excited kids with a lot of pent up energy bouncing around my house as I tried to hear and concentrate.  I think the best way to handle this is to plan ahead!  Try to keep a snow day survival pack ready to occupy the kids time so you can still work.  Fill a bin with craft supplies, movies, books, etc that you can pull out and get your kids set up to play quietly.  Keep it different from their normal movies or crafts so that it is something special that they only work on during snow days or when they are home sick.  Send them outside to build a snowman or sled ride.  If your kids are too young to do these activities by themselves, make sure you have a plan B in place with your employer ahead of time.  Can you split your shift or work it later in the evening after your spouse is home or the kids have gone to bed?  Do you have a neighbor you can swap the day with—you take all the kids in the morning while she has them in the afternoon leaving each of you a half day to still get some work done.   If you have plans set in place before the snow day happens, you won’t go into panic mode scrambling to get it all figured out on the fly. 
  • Plan a “Just Because” get together with family or friends.  The holidays have passed but you can still have a party!  Pick a theme, such as an Awards Show Gala (Golden Globes January 16th, Grammys February 13th).  Have your friends arrive in their red carpet best and watch the show while sipping on champagne and eating hors d’ oeuvres!  How about a Winter Wonderland theme with snowflakes hanging from your ceiling and a snowman building contest in the backyard?  Little things like this can really help to break up the monotonous winter months and give you something to look forward to. 

I have given you some of the tips I have tried for beating the winter blues to help me stay upbeat, energized, and productive—now I would love to hear from YOU!!  Please post any suggestions you have for getting past the blahs of winter!!


73 thoughts on “Beating Those Winter Blahs…

    • I agree that cooking is a great way to feel productive. Especially if you make something either very tasty or very nutritious… preferably both. One way to make cooking fun is to try new recipes. Open a cookbook to a random page and see if it might be something you’d like. Spontaneity is a great cure for the blahs.

  1. Love the ideas, but you clearly are under-representing the time necessary to grab a cup of coffee with a friend. I mean, 10 minutes? It takes that long to order!


    My Starbucks runs with friends typically take about 1.5 hours.

    Oh well. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution is to talk less?

    Great post — thanks for sharing these tips!

  2. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, so I know winters can be bad there–but congrats on being freshly pressed!
    Sending Sunshine from Haiti,
    (P.S. And please remember Haiti today on the one year anniversary of the earthquuake.)

  3. Great tips for those blue days of winter. I always suggest going out for a walk, though in the morning as the sun offers the most efficent source of vitamin D then. Talk is cheap. Even with the know how and know when, I prefer my mornings with coffee at the computer. I find blogging and other writings to bring me a morning high.
    Nice post, congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  4. HaHa! Yeah, sometimes when chatting with a friend, the time goes by too fast! i wish 1.5 hours of exercise would go by that fast!

    Thanks for reading!

  5. My colleagues and I have a party every January. This year it’s going to be our postpones Christmas party! And I always make travel plans in January so that I’ve something to look forward to.

  6. I live in Western PA, too! The ever-arching winter (which can span anywhere from October to May) always finds me a little down in the dumps. Those months find me wrapping up so tight in my parka that I forget to look up and cherish the sun, when it does decide to show its face. I love your idea for the “Just Because” party. I may put that into practice sometime in the next few weeks!

    Western PA bloggers unite!

    • Lindsay – I purchased a floor lamp for S.A.D. It was the best thing I ever did…read the paper every morning by its light and it has made a real difference! Have since bought a desk lamp for my daughter to use at work and she can appreciate the difference too!

      • I bought a Lumie SAD light which sits on the bedside table and comes on on a timer in the mornings. A bit like waking up to daylight. Great!

  7. Don’ t forget about sled riding. It’s enjoyable if your kids are old enough. Nothing like walking up hills with heavy boots & clothes. You’re exercising and having fun with the kids.

  8. Your number one suggestion is the toughest of them all… excercise….lol!! But so absolutely true… it does your body (and mind) wonders… now only if i could be bothered to get up from this couch….lol…

  9. Oh wow, I’m from Western PA! I moved to VA and love it!! People do not believe me when I try to tell them I used to hibernate from December to about February, late March lol it’s super cold up that way.

  10. I sooo needed to read this post. I have recently moved to Canada from the south of France and I thought that was cold because I grew up in Africa.

    Great tips and I will be putting some of them into action right away!

  11. Congrats Bethany on Freshly Pressed! The way I’m beating my winter blues this year is with my new blog! It’s been wonderful meeting other great people with similar goals. The other way is “exercising” out in all this snow! A much more fun way to lose weight 🙂
    Fun and informative ideas! — Colleen

  12. Another one to add to your list: Have a winter BBQ! We are having one this weekend.. although I don’t know how bad your winters are in Pennsylvania, we’re in the UK..

  13. I think I’m lucky, my birthday is in January so I’ve got something fun to look forward to.

    Great ideas though. I think getting off the sofa and away from the snack foods is the hardest when the weather is cold. What beats a hot chocolate, cookies and marshmellows?

    If I can actually get some time to myself (tough with a young child) I love diving into a good book, getting a mani pedi with a friend, or turning off the TV and cranking some music really loud and dancing around the room with my daughter. Who can be stuck in the blahs when their 2 year old is jumping like a kangaroo around the room shouting the words of Rock Star by Pink?

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  14. Being from Minnesota, where Winter traditions from come from places like Sweden and Norway, I have found these to be most helpful:
    1) Go to a sauna….nothing like melting away the winter with warmth like this.
    2) Just get outside for a time doing something physical…our bodies were made to feel and sense things like wind, temperatures, sensations, and just be outside where the spanse is larger than your living room.
    3) Be social….other people help people get through the winters. Being a loner is the worst thing you can do in the winter months.
    4) Drink tea…..tea has natural anti-depressants in them.
    5) Eat fish and chocolate – No, not together. Fish because it has depression suppression omega-3 acids in them, that your body needs in order to fight stress and boost your immunity. And choclate…..well lets be honest, Chocolate just makes everyone happy!! Go get some Lindt or Hersheys, whatever your pleasure.

  15. I too live in PA. January & February are definitely long, and a bit of a drag. I usually pick some sort of project to keep me busy. This year I’m learning how to knit, and loving it. I’ve also just started blogging, and really enjoying that community. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  16. I love all of the ideas, I would also suggest doing a sort of ‘Pay it forward day’ where you handmake something for someone or write cards for your friends with a nice personal message.

  17. I live in Toronto, Canada, and I HEAR YOU!!!

    When I have some free time– or happen to be at home working on some project or another (sewing, writing, whatnot– I don’t have kids), I like to put on the comedy channel (via iTunes radio). That always cheers me up!

    Sewing is a GREAT indoor winter activity as well, I might add.

    And exercise… of course!! We could all use some more of that! I like to turn up the heat and pour a very hot bath so my apartment gets all hot and steamy, then do my own variation of “Bikram’s Yoga/dancing/kickboxing” in the privacy of my own home, with hiphop music turned up LOUD. My own little personal escape… I always feel GREAT after!

    Thanks for this post! Keep em’ coming!

  18. Make a huge pot of pumpkin soup, add coconut milk and a few chopped walnuts and take a portion of it to your neighbor.
    Buy an aging neighbor a pair of warm leggings(just because) and enjoy the sunshine that comes from her/his eyes.
    Feed the birds!
    Take a walk around the block at night and dare your partner to join you in trying to imitate Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion doing the Follow the Yellow Brick Road/We’re Off To See The Wizard skip(it is not easy, but FUN!)

  19. Have a Chinese-new-year themed party – February 3. It’s always fun. This time it’s the year of a white rabbit. Tell your guests to come dressed in white and fluffy.

  20. This is a great time for me to work on my sewing, crocheting, or any kind of crafting projects. I turn on some music or find a good movie that I can look up and watch every now and then while working away and I find I can accomplish something.

    I also like to cook and these cold and lonely days make me want to get in the kitchen and do just that. Baking something always makes the house smell good, and that gives it that cozy, warm feeling.

  21. As a fellow Western Pennsylvanian, I agree that January and February can elicit some very stubborn blah responses. Until recently, I despised the winter in general. But, in an effort to be more positive, I began to see winter in a brighter light. Snow, especially. Try some fun snow activities, like sledding or building snowmen… the fun of the “holiday” season can last a lot longer- especially if the kids are off from school!

    Winter has become my favorite season, even if it means exercising indoors and shoveling the driveway a lot.

    Socializing definitely becomes tougher, though- I agree that in order to defeat the blahs, we have to make time for friends. Long distance chatting is a great way to keep in touch.

    Another suggestion: Get a new winter wardrobe, or at least some new comfy clothes for the season. It might make you feel a little refreshed after the chaos of the holidays.

  22. Great post on beating the winter blues! January and February are particularly “blah” up here in Montreal Canada.

    .. beat it with outdoor exercise – I say!

  23. I live in Colorado and last year I had a bring your own mug party. Everyone thought I was nuts when I told them to bring their favorite mug with them. Everything I served could be eaten or drank out of a mug. (I had a dishpan with sudsy water for cleaning between courses, each did their own). I had chili, soup, hot chocolate, mousse, rum punch, and more. It made for great conversations. They still thought I was nuts, but in a fun way.

  24. Nice post! I live in Alaska and offer tips regularly for my clients (being a real estate agent a good amount of my client base is relocating families in the frigid north!)
    With all the darkness that we get in the winter (we’re down to 4 hours of light a day!) it’s very important to have an outlet for everyone in the family. I always encourage sports, hockey specifically (it is Alaska, :)) for the whole family. It’s free once you have the equipment, great exercise, and fun for the whole family. I play (and sponsor) three teams myself and at 53 years old (don’t tell anyone!!) it keeps away the blues, encourages me not to overwork, and I’m healthy as a horse!

  25. Pingback: Beating Those Winter Blahs… (via Always Understanding Blog) « The Mary Cox Team's Blog

  26. Great tips! I get the winter blahs every year, but I’ve found I beat ’em whenever I keep myself busy and on my toes. 🙂

  27. The exercise thing is always good.

    I party that I’ve been to was “Your Favorite Day of the Year” party where everyone dressed up as their favorite day of the year. There was definitely some interesting characters that showed up for sure…

  28. Already planning for the snow days as soon as the winter season comes to a close and the bright sparkly spring is soo close at hand??!!! Woah!! dts real positive thinking 😀

    I’m still wrapped in my sweater and yearn to cozy up under the blanket..

  29. A quick sarcastic hooray for PA winters! How much snow did you get the other night? These are great tips for combating the chill. Something else I do is spend time with my pets. Make that 10 minute afternoon walk a walk with your dog, and it doubles the fun–you may even forget you’re exercising. Snuggle up with your cat and a mug of hot cocoa before you go to bed. Studies have shown that pets reduce stress and improve moods.

  30. What a great post!!! I love the “virtual” coffee chat the best!!! I will now plan to do that!!
    I live in NY and the best way to get past all of the snow blues is to enjoy it while it’s here! It’s not all that bad!!!

  31. I think the virtual coffee idea is absolutely awesome!
    I also think that you could spend so much more time on your blog during that time. Or other people’s blogs. I have found so so so many motivational inspiring stories. And to be honest, I have had so many giigles.
    Congartulatiosn on being freshly pressed! Goingto have a squizz around now.

  32. Agree on the exercise & coffee chats. Wonderful post; I live in West MI now & we get a LOT of cloud cover in winter so my survival tip is IF the sun is shining I make it a point to put my face in it!! Even 20 min near a window or 10 min outside with my parka on makes a world of difference. Cheers!

  33. what an upbeat post for such a downer of a topic – really enjoyed reading this one 🙂 Nothing helps me beat the winter blues like a festive cocktail or meal- fondue, hot toddies, and soul warming meals always do the trick when the winter blues start getting the better of me 😉

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