Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
Winter doldrums. Winter Blues. Cabin fever.
I was not going to write about this seasonal phenomenon because I’ve seen it mentioned on several other blogs recently. It’s been covered, right?
But I’ve been feeling a little blah myself lately. It hasn’t been as bad as I’ve experienced in the past, but enough to remind me that it’s something we all deal with…and I know a lot of moms have a worse case than I do.
So what causes the winter blues and how they be combated?
What causes winter doldrums?
Lack of sunshine
I think a big cause of the winter blues is simple lack of sunshine due to shorter, often cloudier days.
Studies have been done about Seasonal Affective Disorder and, while most of us probably don’t have full-blown SAD, it seems few of us escape some gloomy days, mid-winter, when we’re just ready for sunshine and spring.
Being cooped up inside
Another huge factor in the winter blues is the fact that we’re often stuck inside due to cold, snowy, or rainy weather.
Even introverts like me need to get out every now and then, so when we have those weeks in which it rains for days on end (we had 9 straight days of rain recently), I can feel myself getting edgy and moody.
Being so far from the beginning of school, but so far from the end
If you’re like me, you love homeschooling and can’t imagine any other way of life.
That being said, sometimes, around mid-year, you’ve lost the excited anticipation of the beginning of the school year, but the end of the school year – and summer break – still seem so far away.
School can start to feel like long, sunless, stuck-inside days of monotony.
Photo by Debra Shiray
How do you combat the winter blues?
Getting fresh air can be vitally important to a person’s health and well-being. My family has discovered that “cold” isn’t necessarily “too cold” to be outside. As long as it’s above freezing (and you folks in colder climates can probably handle below freezing better than us Southern folks), we try to get outside. We’ve found that once we get moving it’s usually not as cold as we thought it would be.
I like to run outside at least once or twice a week. We also try to go to the local animal shelter to walk dogs at least once a week. It’s good for us and them.
Change things up
Last year, we completely changed curriculum in January. I’m not suggesting that everyone do that, but a big plus for us was that this January, we were ready for the next level in our curriculum. Starting the new stuff in January provided a little boost of that new school year excitement in the winter when we’re usually hitting a slump.
Even if you don’t want to make big changes, some little changes might be just the thing to add some fun into those dreary mid-winter days. This could be a great time to add some extracurricular studies, such as art, photography, or a foreign language.
Take a break
For the last couple of years, we’ve tried to take at least a week off in the early part of February. Even if we don’t plan anything exciting, it just gives everybody some time to look forward to doing something a little different.
Bring nature inside
Flowers make me happy…and, if they happen to be big, yellow sunflowers, that’s even better.
I often make it a point, during the winter, to make sure I’m keeping some pretty arrangements of cut flowers in the dining room where we spend the majority of the day. Thanks to greenhouses, I can enjoy a little bit of spring – in the form of fresh flowers – even in the dead of winter.
Just last week, I was feeling a little glum. I looked at my wall calendar, with its photo of those gorgeous yellow sunflowers I love, and realized that it was time for some fresh flowers. Sure enough, when I picked some up later that evening, they made me feel perkier and happier.
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise is a great mood enhancer. I’m a firm believer in getting 20-30 minutes of exercise every day, even if you don’t need to lose weight.
Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood, reduce stress, and help you sleep better (which also helps you feel better mentally). I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve regretted a brisk walk, a few minutes on the stationary bike, or a good run.
The winter blues are probably not completely unavoidable, at least to some extent, but knowing some of the triggers and being armed with some techniques for combating them can help alleviate the majority of the symptoms.
Do you battle the winter blues? What coping techniques have you found to be effective?