Ever since I went to college in snowy South Bend, Indiana, I think I’ve had a low-grade form of seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues. Every January and February, I notice my spirits going down, and spring feels so far away. Diseases are in the air, invading school, home, and my family’s immune systems, and we can’t always go outside to feel the sun or breathe fresh air. At school, we are enough into the year to have a routine, but there are still interruptions with different school events, and we are not so close to the end of the year that we can hit cruise control.
So far this calendar year, I’ve already had some sort of sickness twice and all my kids have been sick, after hoping that Christmas break would reset things and get rid of the feeling that I was behind and feeling like a chicken with my head cut off.
Over break, I decided I need to be more deliberate and proactive about fighting the winter blues this year, and so far it’s kind of working. There have been some tough days, especially when we were all sick, where I felt my efforts were temporarily derailed, but the key word was *temporarily.* It was easier to get back on track with some important “spirit boosters” in place.
The following are what’s working for me, and I know these particular things aren’t for everybody, but everyone has something they do to relax and reenergize! In my experience, it’s making the time for these things that is incredibly difficult, but self-care should be as much a priority as anything else we commit to. As Dr. Tim Elmore said at a workshop I just went to on Friday, teaching is an “emotionally expensive” job, and we have to make sure we take care of ourselves so we have something to give to others.
I was always someone who dreaded PE, and I am one of the most non-athletic people on the planet. Ask anyone who knows me. Somehow, though, running has turned into my preferred type of exercise — I think because I can do it alone, automatically, and it gives me time to think. To make this happen, I do have to wake up very early in the morning, because I know I won’t do it after school, and I have to wear my workout clothes to bed, which makes me a little sad, but I do feel better for the rest of the day, and I like looking at my step tracker and seeing that I have actual steps. It works because I can be very competitive with myself.
In the past, I would always make a vague exercise goal, like “work out more,” and then eventually not follow through, and that could very well happen this time. But, I’m trying something different by having a mile goal for the whole year, and having weekly and monthly goals, and I’ve been good so far because I want to stay on track. Even when I was sick, I kept thinking how I didn’t want to get too far off track, whereas before I might have told myself I needed to take a week …which would become a month…or a year even…to recover.
Over break, I cleaned out our entire house and got rid of anything we didn’t need. I thought we were pretty good about not keeping a bunch of unnecessary stuff, but I was very wrong. The whole experience ended up being cathartic, actually, and best of all, it is much easier to clean than it used to be.
One of the most life-changing decisions was creating a “toy library” in one of the boys’ bedroom closets, and this forced the boys to have only enough toys that could comfortably fit in there and be organized. They can each check something out of the toy library, and when they are done, they have to put it back into a bin to check out something else. Their trains, trucks, and cars are always available, mostly in the basement, and are parked in a bookshelf “garage” when not in use.
So far, the system has been working really well, and my stress levels have gone way down in regards to toys being everywhere and having to remind people to pick up. They don’t seem to miss their old toys, or getting to choose from a crazy bunch of options. In fact, I think they play better, and they are definitely better about cleaning up than they used to be.
I think it will be a challenge keeping up with the clutter that inevitably comes into our house, but it has been easier with everything having a clear place, and getting our whole family involved in keeping it that way. When it’s just me worrying about something, that is never good for anybody!
3. Reading The Princess Bride
I started out reading The Princess Bride (after loving the movie since forever) to see if I wanted to use it as a read aloud for my students, and I think I do, but it’s ended up being one of those reads that just give me a sense of comfort. When I was little, I used to feel this way about The Little House on the Prairie and Boxcar Children books. I had kind of forgotten that I need that as an adult, too! Other books that I reread from time to time are Pride and Prejudice and the Harry Potter series.
4. Watching Fixer Upper
My dream farmhouse kitchen
I <3 Joanna Gaines. I might have to have a pity party when this last season ends, but I know the show will live on in rerun land! I frequently fantasize about how I want to redo our house…sometimes it’s just nice to dream!
5. Playing Card Games
The boys got a game set for Christmas, with packs of cards, Bingo, checkers, and dominoes. I taught my oldest how to play War, Go Fish, and Spit, and now his favorite thing is playing card games. It’s become a little routine of ours to play after school or dinner, and given us another way to bond. I think he could play an infinite number of games and not get bored, and I’m definitely not with him on that! But, we find a happy medium and have fun.
6. Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies
Because obviously, they make everything better! I used to bake a lot more, back before the whirlwind of kids, and now I’d like to get back into it again, especially now that I have three little helpers who fancy themselves baking experts! We’ve stayed pretty basic with cookies, but we’re hoping to expand our repertoire in the future;) We used this recipe for chocolate chip cookies and they were gooey and delicious and everything you could ever hope for.
So that’s how I’m trying to keep the winter blues away in 2018! What are ways you take care of yourself during this time of year (or really, any time of the year)?