February second marked Groundhog day, and this year, the little critters told us to settle in for six more long weeks of winter. With polar vortexes, southern snowstorms, and generally slippy, slushy, snowy conditions, it’s about this time of year that people in Northern climates can start feeling a little winter weary. Doubly so for people and families on tight budgets who don’t get to go skiing, attend winter festivals, get out to the movies or shopping centers, or vacation some place warm. So, when the weather forces you to stay cooped up, wrapped up, or wound up, what can a person do to get through until spring without succumbing to cabin fever?
1) Sunshine: Open curtains, wash windows, and let as much light in a possible. The short days make winter dark enough already. Lots of natural light can really boost one’s mood. Though exposure to sun is famous for increasing your levels of Vitamin D (which helps with winter depression and is believed to prevent many diseases), anywhere North of California (i.e. all of Canada) doesn’t get enough winter sun to do this. And if you’re indoors, even during the summer, windows prevent this from happening too. Our bodies store vitamin D from sun exposure, so if you’re outside a lot in the summer, you might get through winter just fine. But even these stores can run out, which is probably why the last few weeks of cold weather are often the hardest. So, to increase your vitamin D levels, try to include it in your diet. Tuna, salmon, eggs, fortified milks and cereals all help. If you can afford it, many people recommend taking supplements, but of course, check with your health professional first.
2) Friends: Even when cash flow is an issue, staying social can help you stay sane. Whether it’s an impromptu kitchen party, a community centre play-group, or just a little one-on-one with a pal, getting out of your house and interacting with other humans, even for short periods, can make the cold days go by faster. It feels good to have something or someone to look forward to. If you’re feeling really low and having a hard time getting out or making plans, try calling a close friend to come over. Even a phone call or a quick video chat can lift your spirits.
3) Find a Hobby: Hobbies don’t have to cost money. Borrow puzzles from friends, books from libraries, join a community centre, go for free swims at the local pool, finally organise your photos, or start doing the crosswords in the paper. You can even check out Freecycle.org or the free section in Craigslist for interesting stuff. Anything that keeps your mind and hands busy will help during those long winter nights and cold winter days. Even social media and online games are fine, in moderation. Though online relationships absolutely have their merits, and movies and TV can be a great way to unwind, it’s important to find balance. There’s no replacement for face-to-face conversation and life AFK (away from keyboard).
4) Pamper yourself: This means different things to different people, but again, doesn’t have to cost much, or any, money. A long hot bath, an extra hour in bed, eating your favourite meal, getting lost in your favourite music, taking a drive through the country. Anything that makes you feel good, but usually gets put off (because of work, kids, illness, fatigue, guilt, or whatever), make it a priority once in a while. Life is busy, demanding, and sometimes, just plain exhausting. A little self-love is good medicine, and taking care of yourself helps you take care of others when they need it (parents and caretakers, I’m looking at you especially).
5) Free stuff in your city: From small villages to mighty metropolises, there’s usually something open to the public at low or no cost. As mentioned above, there’s often free swims at the public pool, community centres offering cooking classes, knitting circles, play-groups, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for swaps and potlucks, free films and music. Art galleries and museums often have a free day. Check online, in the newspapers, posters stapled to bulletin boards, and with your friends. There’s usually much more out there than you think.
Those are our suggestions, but we’d love to hear about your tricks to shaking off the cold and dark of winter. Stay warm…spring is only 44 days away!