Historically, winter hasn’t been my favorite time of year. I’m not a winter sports person. Cold weather frolicking on a slope or ice rink was never my thing. I find myself feeling less energetic when it’s dark and cold out. I miss the feeling of renewal the spring time offers and the heat and excitement of summer. My friend described it the other night as malaise. Her therapist husband was concerned about the use of the word but we decided it was less a medical form of discomfort, and lack of well-being, and more a mental feeling of “I’m done with winter, over the pandemic, and totally tired and fed up with the last two years of stress.” Some call it pandemic exhaustion and, mixed with the bleak, cold and grey of winter, it’s a recipe for the winter doldrums, or un-ease. How do we come out of this un-ease and make it easier? Here are some suggestions.
More movement is key. Get off the couch or out of the chair. Listen to your body and honor what it needs. Maybe a yoga class, maybe a walk, maybe both. Do something interesting. Take yourself off autopilot and use your brain in a new and different way. Maybe an interesting online class or YouTube video to perk your interest. My daughter has been watching different crochet videos to learn new stitches to keep herself busy indoors. I’ve been doing Wordle and improving the neuroplasticity of my brain.
Feeling your emotions can be healthy in this time of un-ease. Having some vulnerable but exploratory conversations with people that support you and can remind you not to be so critical about yourself and help perk you up. Write things down. Journaling can be very liberating if you feel pent up with emotions of fear, frustration or stress. Give yourself the opportunity to vent what you feel — whether it’s to someone who supports you, in your writing, or just let yourself be mopey for a bit and cry the blues. Make time to reach out to friends and family for support and to be supportive. Be grateful for what you have, even if you are feeling a little blue. Being kind and compassionate has been shown to increase happiness.
Our yoga practice gives us the opportunity to explore and rediscover our best self – which is kinder and more compassionate. So, during the doldrums of this cold winter, do some acts of kindness, make charitable donations, volunteer, check in on a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while, allow that car to get in front of you. Simple yet kind acts. One other great way I’ve heard about to overcome this unease, pandemic exhaustion, and winter doldrums, is to cultivate awe. Awe can make us feel like our problems are very trivial in the big scheme of things. The idea that we are tiny specks in the universe gives us a bigger picture perspective that is helpful when we may be overly self-focused on our own emotional well-being. One suggestion I read about is to take a 15-minute walk outdoors (sunlight being great for the doldrums on its own), whether it is daily, or less, but at least weekly, and seek out moments of awe during the walk. Looking at the trees, nature, animals, the sky. I did that yesterday myself as I walked outside with the dog we are dog sitting, watching him frolic in the snow. As I looked up, I realized that the snow wasn’t even hitting the ground. With all the wind that was blowing, the snow was whirling around us and dancing and there we were in the middle like we were in our own personal snow globe. I couldn’t help but smile, giggle and frolic a little myself. If you are feeling the winter doldrums, and a little done with both winter and the pandemic, I hope these suggestions bring you some moments of ease, laughter and happiness.
As always, thanks for reading my musings. Namaste, Leslie