How I’m Getting Through Winter

January 17, 2024

Enjoying the early parts of winter is easy. Everything is draped in lights, garlands, and festive decor and there’s food, fun, presents, and plentiful time off of work. It’s what comes after that’s hard. 

When the holidays end, there’s January, February, and usually a good chunk of March when it’s brutally cold, windy, and worst of all, dark and overcast, weather that makes the already limited daylight feel even more lacking. My skin gets dry, my lips chapped, my hands and feet are cold, everyone is sick, and I lack the energy to want to do anything (not that I could anyway, since the extreme cold and ice make it hard to leave the house). It’s pretty miserable, and in most years, pretty difficult to get through. 

Simply surviving through three months of the year is kind of depressing though, so this year I wanted to try to change my mindset about winter a bit and to find ways to take joy in the season for what it is. 

Before the worst of winter hit I created a winter survival list for myself to help me get through those dark months. Here’s what I plan to do to bring some light: 

Prioritizing Personal Care

My mental and physical health generally aren’t at their peak in winter, so giving myself a little extra during this time is critical.

  • Weekly Self Care Night: Once a week I’m trying to carve out time to take a long, hot bath, enjoy a bath bomb, do a face mask, scrub all the dead skin off my body, get all nice and moisturized. I have loads of face masks and bath bombs, I want to make sure I use them!
  • Workouts and Walks: It’s hard to want to get up and get moving when it’s so cold, but it does make me ultimately feel better. I’m working on getting into a workout schedule and making time to take a daily walk, weather permitting.
  • Slow Down: In nature, winter is a time of rest. In our culture, January is a time to Get Shit Done, make resolutions, lay out your entire year, etc. Trying to find a balance between the demands of the new year and my desire to hibernate is something I’m really working on making a priority.
  • Be Comfortable: Post pandemic I am not interested in wearing things that aren’t comfortable (especially if I’m just at home), but I still want to get dressed every day. I’ve been trying to create outfits that are still super comfortable but that I would actually wear outside of the house. I call them my day jammies. Usually it’s a pair of nice sweats or leggings with a sweater, but I try to jazz things up with a necklace or other accessories so it feels more like an outfit.

Decorate for Winter 

The house always seems so stark and cold after all the Christmas decorations come down. I’m often slow to put them away because I want to hang onto that coziness as long as possible, but I thought why not just decorate for winter a bit instead?

  • Garlands and Wreaths: I have up some non-Christmasy garlands and wreaths around the house to add some greenery.
  • Dried Oranges: Oranges were on sale at the store so I bought a whole bag and cut and dried about half of them. They make excellent cheerful decor when strung up on twine, and look especially lovely when the sun shines through them.
  • Lights and Candles: I have lights and candles on just about every surface of my house. I’ve been trying to light candles when I’m at home and I have timed lights that come on when it starts to get dark so that everything always feels a bit cozy.

Grow Winter Gardens

One of the reasons I struggle so much with winter is that I love working in my garden, growing things, and tending to plants. Not having that outlet for relaxation starts to take a toll on me, and by the time spring rolls around I’m usually desperate to get back in the yard. But why wait?

  • Plant Indoor Forced Bulbs: This year I planted a couple dozen bulbs inside to enjoy this winter. I got many on clearance after the holidays, but a white amaryllis is just as beautiful in January as it is at the holidays! I have a couple of those, some freesia, hyacinths, and narcissus. I planted them in crystal and pottery I bought at the thrift store, topped them with reindeer and dried moss for some green. Most are already popping up and I can’t wait to enjoy them!
  • Start Seeds: Many of the perennials I want to grow in my garden next year require a period of cold stratification, meaning they can be planted in winter. I’ve got trays of a wide range of wildflowers already going and ready to sprout in a few weeks after they’ve had a good dose of cold.
  • Garden Planning: I’ve been trying to plan out what plants I want to grow, where to put them and what seeds to buy. It’s actually necessary to do this before growing season, because there’s so much going on once things start getting planted that there just isn’t time! Plus it’s fun to daydream about a garden full of flowers on a snowy day.

Snowy Day Projects 

It can get a little boring being cooped up inside for months on end. I tried to find some crafts and other projects to keep me busy!

  • Making a Gold Metal Garland: I’ve seen loads of lovely pictures of ornaments and garlands that people have made from the foil inside tomato paste tubes. While I don’t have any empty tubes to use, thin gold sheets of metal aren’t too hard to find in craft stores, so I bought some and some gold wire. I’m hoping to make a pretty garland of stars and birds to add to my “winter” decorations for some dreary day sparkle.
  • Crafting a Dried Floral Wreath: I grew a number of flowers and grasses this year that I dried out and saved to use later. I want to put them to use! I bought a simple grapevine wreath and some floral wire and I’m hoping to turn my dried flowers (lots of strawflower) into something I can use.
  • Cleaning and Organizing: When you’re stuck indoors it’s hard not to see all the projects that need to get done around the house, chief among them cleaning and organizing every darn room in the house. With three kids who are walking tornadoes, my house is overdo for a deep cleaning and purge. I plan on going room by room and cleaning everything out, organizing it, fixing things, and making small updates to the decor.

Lean Into the Cozy 

I can be a bit of a homebody so being stuck at home isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world to me. I want to really lean into the cozy this year and try to enjoy some simple pleasures when I can’t get outside.

  • Puzzles and Games: I got several puzzles for Christmas and our house is overflowing with games, so I want to make time to get some more use out of both this year and get my kids involved, too. My personal favorite puzzles are Magic Puzzles, which involve completing one main puzzle then rearranging it and completing another smaller puzzle inside of it.
  • Baking: I’ve been trying to bake one thing a week to give us a special treat to enjoy and to give me a cozy activity to do. So far I’ve made the King Arthur Chocolate Chip Cookies, a Brooklyn blackout chocolate cake, and monkey bread. I don’t mind making more involved recipes in winter because I have a lot of down time to do it.
  • Bust Out the Heated Blankets: If you live somewhere cold and don’t have a heated blanket, I highly recommend getting one. There’s nothing like a winter storm outside while you’re enjoying reading a book under your toasty blanket.
  • Reading: I spent most of last year miserably sick and did almost no reading. This year I’m trying to read at least one book a month, though hopefully one every two weeks. So far I’ve read The Comfort of Crows and am working my way through Big Swiss.

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