Cup number 5 (or 6?) of coffee for the day.

Well here we are in the thick of winter. The excitement of the holiday season is long gone and the beginning of spring is so far off on the horizon it’s not worth even thinking about. Here in Connecticut, our local groundhog, Chuckles, predicted an early spring. However, Punxsutawney Phil did not and everyone knows he’s the “real” groundhog (sorry Chuckles). Phil, I hate you too.

Winter, for me, is a big bucket of suck. The days are too short and never get bright enough for me. I look out my window and everything is either gray or brown and so depressing. This winter, on the CT shoreline, we have gotten very little snow and the snow we do get is gone quickly leaving everything…gray or brown. I’m cold all of the time. I’m cold in my 100-year-old drafty house. I’m cold at work in my school built with cement walls. I’m cold in my car, even with the heated seats burning my ass. There is nothing to DO in the winter and if we do have something on the calendar often I dread bundling up and actually leaving the house to do it. I do not look my best in the winter. My skin is dry and my hands have multiple cuts on them from simply touching paper the wrong way. I’m pale, oh so pale, and my drier than normal hair always looks flat and boring. And my smile rarely reaches my eyes during the winter.

The winter blues, for me, are very real. My emotions tend to be closer to the surface and even little annoyances can bring me to tears. Everyday stress that I can usually manage can undo me. Nothing really makes me happy—even favored activities and hobbies lose their appeal in the winter. I tend to eat more junk food and drink more red wine and coffee (so much coffee) this season making me feel physically unwell. I tend to hibernate, refusing invitations to get out and be social with friends and neglecting to keep date nights with my husband as a priority. Even though this hibernation is self-imposed I will then begin to feel lonely and more miserable as I am, by nature, a social person. Each year I promise myself that I will find a better way to get through the winter but every year I fall into the same pattern of feeling miserable, withdrawing from anything that may be enjoyable, and then feeling even unhappier. It’s a vicious cycle.

Since moving to Florida is not in my family’s plan at the moment, I am still trying to keep my promise to myself to manage my winter blues more effectively. I’ve come up with a few strategies that are helping a little.

1. Exercise. I MUST get a thirty-minute run in at least a few times a week. As much as I hate changing out of my warm clothes into work out gear (in my frigid house) and walking from my car into the gym in my less than cozy gym clothes (often through wind and cold rain), I MUST go. Three minutes into my run I am warm again. I visualize the calories in the brownies I ate the night before burning away, and I blast upbeat country music into my ears. The endorphins start flowing through my body and I feel myself again.

2. Food. Despite the increase in my intake of comfort junk food, I am working hard this winter to come up with new meals to serve my family that contain more vegetables and less carbs. I’ve decided to order take-out less often and I’m trying to improve my meal planning and grocery shopping skills. My progress with this goal has been iffy but at least it’s something to do. I’m enjoying cooking a teeny bit more and making a new meal brings a little excitement to an otherwise boring, gloomy day.

3. Laughter. I find that my better winter days are those that contained some laughter. I am lucky enough to work with teenagers so on days when my winter mood is particularly annoying I will declare “game day” and spend most of the day playing with my students. We play Apples to Apples, UNO, and sometimes even Sorry. And we laugh. Some evenings I’ll ask my husband to find “something funny” on TV. We DVR “The Tonight Show” so some nights we’ll binge watch Jimmy Fallon playing games with celebrities, putting on ridiculous skits, and succumbing to the giggles himself during a playful interview. When Jimmy laughs, I laugh. I’m also a huge fan of MTV’s “Ridiculousness” for some much needed belly laughs.

Winter will never be an enjoyable time of year for me. I’ve come to accept that winter may even get worse as I get older (and maybe Florida WILL eventually be a possibility). I know, however, that I cannot let this miserable season hold me hostage. I can’t let it win. So I’ll keep trying to find ways to muddle through and I’ll always be open to ideas to make it better. Anyone have any??