I don’t know about you, but the short hours of daylight and long, dark nights really get to me by January. The holidays are over, the school snow days have commenced, temperatures have plummeted, and cabin fever is an ongoing threat. Some people call this Seasonal Affective Disorder. I call it: “anyone living in this climate and these latitudes for part of the year.”
I am an introvert and very sedentary by nature, so being at home writing and editing with warm dogs at my feet is my preference, but there are challenges to working at home. And, really, I see all five of my family members fight to get through the Boston Deep Freeze in more ways than one this time of year. Lately, we New Englanders have been basking in the 9 degree glory of no wind and a temporary reprieve from the white stuff.
But what about the darkness, the dry air, and the way this time of year messes with our minds and bodies?
Our white landscape typically starts to melt in March. That can be a long wait!
Here are some tips that get me through the countdown to April showers bringing May flowers.
(By the way, I receive no compensation for these endorsements.)
1) Warm Meals for All Times of Day
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, run right out and get one. Seriously. Or at least purchase some kind of electric pressure cooker.
The idea of warm oats waiting for me upon wake-up, all set with a timer and ready to warm me and my family in the chilly downstairs, is a reason I can get up on days when the bed seems like the best place to hibernate.
Have I mentioned how much an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) has changed my life? Out all night taxi-ing kids to activities? Only come up with a dinner thought at 5:00? So quick, so easy, so good. Get one with a timer if that helps. My steel-cut oats greet me in the morning after setting the timer the night before. Really, the IP and I have become BFFs.
Most of the time, I search on Pinterest for recipes, but this book has become permanently attached to my kitchen countertop this January. It already has the splash marks of a well-loved book!
The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Barbara Schieving
This was my review on Amazon.com:
I absolutely adore this Instant Pot cookbook. I have already made 10 recipes since Christmas, and I have flagged 20 more. I usually only use about 10 percent of any cookbook, but this one is so good! I have loved everything so far! The only disclaimer is some of the recipes call for a jar of sweet and sour sauce, etc. If you are more into fully natural, from-scratch cooking, you would have to adapt a few of them, but honestly, I have been so pleased with everything we have tasted….from turkey breast to steel-cut oats, to Asian dishes, to Mexican fare. I receive no compensation for this endorsement.
2) Treating Dry Skin
After a shower, I typically like to hydrate my skin. Elbows in particular are a problem this time of year. Not only does this body souffle moisturize, but the aromatherapy effects also awaken my senses. I am a sucker for citrus, so if that is not your thing, check out the other scents.
GLOOMAWAY Grapefruit Body Souffle by Origins
Before going to bed every night, I put this on my hands. I adore it. My husband can attest that I awkwardly sniff my hands for a good five minutes as I fall asleep. I feel like someone squeezed a clementine right on them. So, so good.
Citrus Bliss Hand Lotion by dōTERRA® SPA
And wow, have you taken off your boot socks to feel that familiar pull and tug on the rough terrain of your feet? Yeah, me too. Actually, I ruin more tights and nylons this way. (I think I just dated myself with that nylon comment, sigh.) A long time ago, my mother introduced me to this product. Tried and true, it is set out on my nightstand every single winter.
Max Foot Crème for Dry, Cracked Feet by Zim’s
3) Light Therapy
For several years, my son’s child therapist had been recommending a “happy light” for defeating the winter blues. I stored that away in my memory bank until two friends mentioned their husbands use these during the winter. Amazon.com was just a click away, and I’ve been very happy with this product. I turn it on as each kid comes to the breakfast table, and I work by it for about ten minutes myself. They have all noticed a difference. Take that, morning darkness!
4) A Good Novel
I love fiction. ADORE it, actually. But I tend to read mostly publishing industry articles and nonfiction books on special needs, mental health, and ministry. A friend recommended this book to me, and once it came across my digital hold notifications at OverDrive, I could not put it down. So well and creatively written. Relatable and also funny. A quick read under a fuzzy blanket on one of those freezing cold evenings.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
5) A Deep Bible Study
If you want a lighter feel to Christian inspiration, Max Lucado books can be easily digested. If you want to really dig deep and grow spiritually, being challenged by Scripture from the Bible in a day-by-day, personal, transparent study, doing the hard work of self-reflection, a seven-week workbook like this one is what you want. As part of my New Year’s resolutions each year, I finish one of these I left behind somewhere on a desk or nightstand. I never regret completing them. This is the one I have picked back up again this year, determined to plow through.
The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
6) Warm Drinks
You cannot have spent much time here at Espressos of Faith without realizing I am a coffee enthusiast! Well, thanks to a persevering tea-loving group of friends, I have widened my horizons, and our kitchen hot drink station (which is tiny, lest the name make you think I have industrial barista equipment) now includes various tea bag and loose tea varieties, as well as some spicy hot cocoa mixes.
This tea was part of my pursuit to help caffeinate my high schoolers in a safe way while keeping them warm for the trek to school. I have fallen in love with it myself. Who doesn’t love orange peels, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and licorice?
Winter Wake Up Tea by Trader Joe’s
So, our local grocery store started selling packets of these hot cocoa mixes as a market test. I was hooked after the first packet rip-open. After doing some research, I realized to my great delight that the company is based in Concord, Massachusetts, my first home here from 2004 to 2007. I love the kick of the spices. They make an Aztec version, as well, that is very friendly.
Kashmir Spice Hot Cocoa by COCOA SANTÉ
And lastly, if you own a Nespresso machine, this is for you. If not, go to Starbucks. I have saved so much money in coffee outings because I love the quality and convenience of this espresso so much.
Caramelito by Nespresso (OriginalLine Capsules)
Okay, full disclosure: I sell essential oils. But even before I became a “wellness advocate,” I used this company’s products for two years as a wholesale account customer. I received the diffuser for Christmas and adore its flexible settings. And the Serenity blend is a favorite among my kids who diffuse it as they go to sleep.
Lumo Diffuser by dōTERRA®
Serenity® Restful Blend by dōTERRA®
8) TV Series
In general, I encourage families to participate in more interactive activities like board games (a blog for another day), jigsaw puzzles, meals together, etc. But in our house, when we find a tv series that appeals to (and is safe for) ages 12, 14, and 17, it’s a win-win. One winter we obsessed over this series. It had fantasy, history, magic, and overall wholesome scenes. I think we mourned for about four days when we finished the series. But seriously, it connected us as we processed the character development (my main reason for watching any television show) and plot progression.
Might I add that I am a multitasker by nature and have not easily been able to sit down and simply watch something on a screen? But try as I did, I had to put down my coloring or list making so I could fully tune in to each episode.
Sold? You’re welcome.
Merlin by BBC
9) Maintaining Humidity Levels for Better Sinuses and Health
After too many winters of waking up dried out of my skull and sinuses with the heater-affected air, I learned the hard way what my father always told me:
“You have to run humidifiers in the wintertime, Doll.”
Well, years of sinus headaches (the kind that make your whole face feel sucked inside out in pain) later, Doll finally learned her lesson. This one is affordable, lasts us several years at a time, and goes in most of our bedrooms.
Warm Mist Humidifier by Sunbeam
Many years ago, a few supplements became part of my son’s breakfast routine. After learning more about the positive effects, I added them to my own diet as well as to that of another one of my children. The fish oil is great for brain function, focus, and mood regulation. I’m sure we’re all smarter because of it. And the lemon zest flavor tastes exactly like lemon meringue pie. It passed the test of my picky, sensory-affected eater.
The vitamin Ds are chewable. Need I say more about replacing the benefits of the missing sun in winter? You can also buy them in various other forms.
Omega Swirl Fish Oil, Lemon Zest by Barlean’s
Adult Chewable D3 1000 IU Tablets, Grape-Flavored by Nature Made
I threw this last suggestion in just for fun. I realize there are limitations such as allergies and rental housing regulations, but probably my very best way (besides time with God and my family) to get through my winter blues is admiring the five non-human beating hearts in my house. Tree frogs are ridiculously entertaining, and the Shih Tzus and lion head rabbit are warm and fuzzy.
*Photo credit for Shih Tzu picture: B. Brown, The Crate Escape
Now is probably a good time to mention exercise, but since I’m sedentary (except when on the elliptical), I’ll leave that to the fitness bloggers out there. After all, I don’t want to hog all the writing real estate on that one. 🙂
I’d love to hear how you make it through the dark days of winter. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if this was helpful.
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Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).