“Ugh, thank goodness January is over. It’s like the Monday of months,” my coworker commented at the beginning of February. While I am in partial agreement with her because we work in a school and follow the academic calendar, making January the month we go back to work after a two-week holiday, I disagree with the sentiment that we’re in the clear now that it’s over.
For me, if January is the Monday of months, then February is only Monday afternoon: I still feel like I’m mustering up every bit of energy I can to get out of bed and get to work in the morning. I need three cups of coffee and an energy drink just to keep my eyes open. I haven’t gotten nearly as much work done as I should have, and all I can think about is going home to catch up on missed sleep. I’m mad at myself for the lack of productivity throughout my day because now there will be an even bigger pile of work waiting for me the next morning. I resent that no matter how many times I say I’ll do better by preparing for the week and sleeping early next Sunday night, I know deep down that’s a lie. February is the month of the year I hit a wall. And the next long break from work is not in sight for over two months. Countdown to spring break, anyone?
February is the month of the year I hit a wall.
By saying ‘my winter blues,’ I’m not implying that I’ve diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder nor am I trying to diminish or take away from the struggles of those who do suffer from any sort of depression that coincides with this season or is worsened by it. The winter months can be rough for many people. The shortened amount of daylight impacts mood, productivity, and overall energy levels, among other things. Some of us leave for work in the morning while it’s still dark out and get home in the evening long after the daylight hours. We normally don’t spend much time outdoors because of the cold weather and the sun seems to play hide-n-seek behind the clouds, leaving our Vitamin D levels at their lowest.
By February, I’ve just about had it. I’m over the cold weather, puffy coats, runny nose, and sedentary lifestyle that comes with the winter months. More so, I’m done with feeling down, tired, and emotionally drained from burning out all of my energy trying to stay afloat in January.
Thankfully though, February is a short month and once March hits, we can see the sunshine awaiting us at the end of the tunnel. That’s what we tell ourselves, right? Once springtime graces us with its presence every year, we shed the negative feelings associated with winter and embrace flowers, sunshine, longer daytime hours, and, alas, outdoor activities. However, for the last few years, February has felt like the longest month of the year to me. Last year, due to a health concern I faced, my winter blues lasted long after spring and only began to fade towards the middle of the summer. Most years, I reach February already running on nearly empty, so it’s no surprise I struggled to get through my health scare.
This year, I’ve tried really hard not to let anything interfere with my ability to come out of winter on a more positive note than in years past, but I’m already finding it difficult. I’m typically someone who gets up before the crack of dawn to get ready for the morning prayer. Yet, I’ve recently found myself snoozing my alarm multiple times and only getting out of bed when I’ve surpassed the sleep-limit that still allows me enough time to get ready and get to work on time. The size of my coffee cup in the morning is larger than usual and I drink another cup in the afternoon to keep my eyes open on the drive home from work. I’ve successfully avoided a significant amount of social interaction with others despite these being people whose company I genuinely enjoy, and my level of irritation with others is at an all-time high. I’m also constantly fighting the urge to respond to bothersome questions and comments with a snarky tone.
At the rate I was going at the beginning of the month, I knew that the self-care I put in place would have to be done in more thoughtful and cognizant ways than usual because while it helps, it’s not always long-lasting. If I want to avoid the pitfalls of last year or caving into a nice, long nap until February is over, I need to choose more sustainable ways to keep my spirits up throughout the month.
Since self-care techniques and coping skills tend to vary by individual, I’ve created a list of things I can do this month that I think will help get through what we’re told is only a few more weeks of winter. And maybe they can be helpful for you or encourage you to come up with some of your own techniques that can get you out of your winter rut.
- Sleep early. This will be the hardest but most important thing I incorporate. It will set up my days for success when my body and mind get enough rest each night.
- Spa days. This can include a massage, a mani-pedi, or bubble baths once or twice a week to help the body decompress from day-to-day stressors.
- Make the most of daylight hours. Keep blinds and shades open during the day to allow in natural light, which will increase your levels of Vitamin D and fight those sluggish feelings.
- Do some in-store shopping. I have a tendency to shop online for most things, but it can be helpful and refreshing to go out and walk through the aisles of a store instead of straining my eyes on a screen all the time.
- Treat yourself! Who says you can’t eat ice cream in the winter? I don’t know and I don’t care. Go right ahead and indulge in a serving of your favorite ice cream. You deserve it!
- Spend time with people that lift you up. We’re probably all plagued with some type of downer in our lives, whether it’s our boss, coworkers, relatives, etc. Make time for people who leave your spirits feeling lifted long after your time together is over.
- Move around. Most people spend the majority of their days sitting at a desk so moving around can help increase blood flow and circulation to boost energy and mood levels. And if you can do some of it outside, that’s even better since fresh air is good for your mood, too!
- Schedule plans to look forward to. Creating positive levels of anticipation can make it easier to get through some of the dull or dreadful moments you might experience this month.
- Give the negativity an outlet. Do things to release any negative energy that could potentially linger past winter like exercise, journaling, or talking to a trusted friend or professional. Don’t internalize these emotions because otherwise, they will eventually surface and it won’t be pretty.
- Be mindful and attentive to the needs of your body. Make sure that you’re paying attention to any signs your body is giving that you need to give yourself more care. If you need to, take a personal day off of work and allow yourself the time and space to heal.