As I walked to the subway this morning, I saw a very large, grumpy-looking pigeon huddled into a corner. What a perfect visual metaphor for how I react to the winter: huddled up in a corner, pretending it isn’t happening.
It’s been nearly ten years since I left the sunny swamp of South Florida for Toronto, but one thing hasn’t changed: my total and utter winter denial. I recognize other sufferers of winter denial as they are usually wearing shorts with tights well into January.
As a sufferer of Seasonal Depression, as well as myriad other self-diagnosed mood disorders, I can staunchly assert that pretending something isn’t happening only works about half the time. And with winter, that shit don’t work at all. You gotta thrust yourself in head first, and pray for the best.
Here are my top ten tips to combat your winter denial.
1. Warm liquids: Tea, coffee, sipping broths, hot cocoa. Whatever you got, heat it up. My current favourite thing in the world is the milk steamer my babe got me for my birthday from Nespresso. It heats and froths milk in about 45 seconds and rinses clean with water. Add a sprinkle of cocoa powder and the sweetener of your choice (I do liquid Splenda) and it makes a perfect hot chocolate. Stir in a little tea or coffee for an amazing latte.
2. Cozy toesies: Boot socks, knee socks, above-the-knee socks, tights…get them and use them to take the chill out of your daily commute. I personally recommend the Long Cuffable Scrunchables from Sock Dreams. And for the more practical business lady, I would also suggest checking out their fleece-lined tights (though fair warning: you can get similar ones in a three-pack at Costco).
3. Winter activities: While I used to shrivel up and die at the very thought of going outside willingly in the winter, I’ve come to realize that on a sunny winter’s day, bundling up and trundling out for a winter hike or activity can really put a little zest in your day. If you’ve got pups (or kids), put them in their cutest lil parka and go frolic in the snow.
4. Hibernate as necessary: there’s nothing wrong with staying indoors on a Friday night with a bottle of your poison of choice, the fireplace channel and a nest of cozy blankets. I like these soft ones from The Bay but you can also find similar ones at Winners or Marshalls. In my dream world, I’d be snuggled up in this bad boy, but that’s way out of my blanket budget.
4b. Make it up: Dust off the old crochet hook or knitting needles and watch your new cozy throw blanket grow big enough to cover your whole body, all while you catch up on episodes of The Fosters on Netflix (then come back here so we can discuss how Brandon is the worst). Sites like Ravelry are your BFF in this regard.
5. Toque it up. You need a cute toque (not to mention coat, scarf, gloves or mitts). Check out places like Anthropologie for really expensive inspiration and then immediately try to find a cheaper alternative on Etsy or in discount stores. Keeping warm can be cute, if you want it to be!
6. Soup it up! Stews, soups and broths, lovingly tended to over the stove (or plopped unceremoniously into your crockpot) will feed your body and your soul. My personal favourites are goulash, leek potato and chicken chowder. Make your favourites and freeze portions for later, or organize a soup swap with your friends so everyone gets a serving or two of a wide variety of soups.
7. Get good boots. I just picked up these Timberland-ripoffs from The Shoe Company as part of their Black Friday sale and I love them. Fleece-lined and just heavy enough to make me feel like a total badass. And please, folks, do not forget to make sure your boots are waterproof! There is nothing worse than slowly losing feeling in your wet, cold toes while waiting for a slow streetcar.
8. Get a little light. There are a ton of good light therapy lamp options at places like Bed, Bath and Beyond. I have a BlueMax my mom bought me eons ago, and I still have yet to change a bulb. Broad spectrum or blue light therapy helps bring up your mood on the short days and long-ass nights of the darkest season of the year.
9. Work it out. Yep, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be getting our thirty minutes in every day if we can. Exercise helps your body keep up energy and to stabilize your mood naturally. For those of us prone to depression, a great winter strategy is to minimize use of depressants like booze and stock up on natural mood boosters like exercise, Vitamin D supplements and fish oil caplets. Easier said than done, but if you can find the fun in exercise you will probably be more likely to stick it out for the long, dark winter.
10. Talk it out. If you’re like me, you might tend to self-isolate in the grimmest of the winter months. The holidays are a whirl of visits, gifting and parties, after which I bunker down for the long haul. Make a standing appointment with your therapist. Skype with your friends and family who live far away. Make plans to visit regularly with an elderly neighbour, a friend with a new baby, or offer to dog sit for your friends while they are away on holiday (hint, hint, everyone). Just because you’re cozied up inside doesn’t mean you have to brave it alone.