Winter here in the Midwest seems to have tightened its grip, holding strong, with few signs of letting go. Cold temps, gray days, and crusty snow seem to be the norm lately and there don’t seem to be any indications that things will change any time soon.
Quite frankly, I am over it. I’m ready for spring. I’m ready for budding flowers and walks to the park. I’m ready to put the winter boots away and to start wearing t-shirts again. I’m ready for sunny days and open windows.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the variety that comes with the changing seasons, but at some point, I reach a breaking point. The same is probably true about various seasons of life, as well, I suppose. Regardless of how resilient or optimistic I try to be, undoubtedly, at some point, I will want throw up my hands up and scream, “ENOUGH! I can’t take anymore!”
Whether dealing with the cold, wet days of March or oppressive work demands or relationship snags or parenting challenges, here are a few of the tricks I have learned for coping with dreary seasons in life.
How to Survive the Dead of Winter (and Other Dreary Seasons of Life)
1. Ask for what you need. We live in a culture that values independence. We want to make it on our own. We take pride in our hard-earned accomplishments. We don’t like to admit vulnerability or ask for help. But we can’t expect to get what we don’t ask for. Whether it’s help shoveling snow or a shoulder to cry on, advice about a sticky situation or just a warm cup of coffee, ASK. I have found that people are usually happy to oblige and honored to be asked.
2. Remember that these are simply circumstances of life, not life itself. Even on the coldest of days, when the snow is blowing and the world seems to have settled under a blanket of gray sadness, it is still warm and cozy inside. The weather is just a circumstance, it isn’t life itself. As a mother to young children, I often feel like my life consists of a never-ending “Groundhog Day” reel of tantrums and tears, time-outs and homework struggles, sibling rivalry and bedtime battles. But these are just circumstances of parenting. At its core, parenting isn’t about these things. Parenting is about providing stability and bolstering spirits, getting sloppy kisses and giving eager hugs, encouraging growth and reinforcing a child’s inherent worth. Whatever the situation, it helps to remind myself that I am not defined by my circumstances.
3. Remember that it all can change on a dime. A good friend who recently had her first baby called me the other day, exhausted and desperate, looking for advice on “normal” sleep patterns. Having had one baby who drove me to the brink of madness with his constant nighttime waking and another who settled into a full-night sleep schedule shortly after birth, I don’t think that I’m in any position to offer suggestions about what “normal” is. She wasn’t really looking for advice, though, and in the end I couldn’t give her any. What she really wanted was someone to tell her that it won’t always be like this, that things will get better – which, of course, she already knew. What she also wanted was someone to tell her when it would get better, when it would be easier – which, of course, no one can tell her. In the end, all I could do was remind her that things can change on a dime. One day, it seems like the melancholic monotony will never end, and the next day things might be entirely different.
4. Spend more time appreciating the good than complaining about the bad. I am a huge proponent of authenticity and acknowledging the bad with the good, but sometimes it is easier to get through the season’s ugliness by airbrushing our mental images a bit. After years of marriage, it is more fun to remember the jittery days of infatuation and the starry-eyed gazes of young love than the angry, exhausted, score-keeping days of early parenthood. Similarly, it is far easier to get through the winter blah’s by thinking about its frosty blue and silver days, when icicles twinkle and white snow glitters, than the gray and brown days, when crusty snow is gnarled with rocks and debris.
5. Act “as if.” Have you heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it?” Well, the same thing applies when you act “as if.” I often wish I were funnier, taller, more outgoing, or more confident. So I sometimes act “as if” I am those things. I laugh at my own jokes, no matter how bad they are. I wear heels. I talk to strangers. I walk proud and give myself Stuart Smalley-esque daily affirmations. And, you know what? It works. Most of the time, at least. Maybe you wish you were happier? Act as if you are the happiest person in the world, laughing easily and smiling often. Do you wish for more time in the day? Act as if you have all the time in the world and linger over a few daily activities like showering or making dinner. Are you anxious for the sultry days of summer? Then turn up the thermostat, put on a pair of shorts, make yourself a gin and tonic, and act as if it’s the middle of July.
How do you get through the ugly seasons?
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