16 Tips for Surviving Winter

or How to Survive a Trip on the Bi-Polar Express *also proven effective for Holiday coping

Many people have a hard time with winter. Up North where I come from the days are short and gloomy. The cold is bitter and winter is long. The holidays, cloaked in joy and celebration can be their own peculiar kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are memories of loves and loved ones lost. There’s the extra stress of everything that needs doing. All that along with the expectation that we should feel happy, Christmas and New Year’s can have a nasty bite. My husband Greg has bi-polar depression and the winter is especially bad for him. If winter gets you down or you’re close to someone who struggles with seasonal depression, let this list be a starting point for you. Make your own list of mood lifters and keep it close at hand. When the wolves of winter come lurking you’ll be ready.

  1. Surround yourself with beauty – art, poetry, nature, whatever does it for you. Buy a flowering plant, paint a wall a fantastic color, spend an afternoon at the art museum.
  2. A winter soundtrack – burn a “feel better” CD or better yet find yourself some live music and a couple of friends and get outta the house!
  3. Dream- imagine positive possibilities for your future. Plan next year’s vacation, outline that book you’ve always wanted to write or think about what you want to be when you grow up
  4. Get out in the sunshine! Take a walk at lunchtime. Even when its overcast there’s more light outside than in. Greg keeps a folding chair by the front door and whenever there’s a glimmer of light he takes a cup of coffee and basks in the sunshine, no matter how fleeting.
  5. Pray differently – don’t be afraid to complain to the management. God’s a big God and can take a little discontent now and then.

  6. Or, if complaining doesn’t make you feel better, count your blessings. Taking time to be thankful for everything you have can be a reminder of all that’s right with the world.
  7. Avoid the morose- whether on film, in print, or in people. During the winter don’t read or watch stories with sad endings or hang around with people who drag you down. Save those for sunnier weather.
  8. Laugh! Funny TV shows, funny people, Internet humor, whatever gets you chuckling. We have lots of jokes about being crazy. Our favorite of late has to do with the Bi-Polar Express.
  9. Cultivate forgiveness-in your relationships and for yourself. My husband says, “Bi-polar means always having to say you’re sorry.” We try to walk gently in winter, not allow disagreements to go too long unresolved and accept apologies whenever they’re offered. Grudges are bad for everybody.
  10. Don’t spend too much time alone – take a little bit of time to reflect, nap, whatever, but being a hermit is no good.
  11. Pursue friendship – develop a new friendship, rekindle an old one, as moods sink the tendency is to neglect our primary relationships so be conscious about keeping your support network strong.
  12. Learn to love winter- do things you can only do in the winter, skate, ski, snowshoe or take a tropical vacation
  13. Do Some Good – a random act of kindness or a regular volunteer gig can be really empowering. My life may seem crappy right now but at least I can improve somebody else’s!
  14. Resist stuff-the occasional treat can be a good thing but retail therapy is dangerous and comes back to bite you when the bills arrive.
  15. Watch out for old addictions- food, alcohol, etc. are just waiting to hit you while you’re down
  16. Know your limitations- don’t expect more of yourself than you would of anybody else. How much can you really get done? Would you ask anybody to keep the schedule you’re expecting to keep this holiday season? I get better every year at saying “No thanks” to commitments that I don’t really want to commit to.

If you can’t seem to shake the blues, talk to your doc. National Association for the Mentally Ill, NAMI, recommends you seek medical attention if symptoms last more than 2 weeks.