5 Ways to Beat the Mid-Winter Blues (When Going Outside Isn't an Option)
Updated: Apr 9, 2022
My entire household caught Covid at the very end of December, so you could say that 2022 didn't get off to the best start. It felt like a defeat after two years of being so cautious and making efforts to minimize risk in everything we do, then despite that still coming down with it. Luckily, we had mild cases and have all since recovered. My current guess is that I caught it while getting my fingerprints and picture taken for my new job, but with Omicron being so transmissible, there's really no way to know for sure.
We came out of a family quarantine in the middle of winter, a time that can be pretty gloomy around these parts, with dirty snow, freezing temps, and short days. While holed up at home, I started to think of ways to combat cabin fever and make joy. Here's what I came up with that has worked for me:
1. Go to bed earlier and get up earlier
Seems kind of obvious that I should take a cue from the earth's orbit to get more sleep. While we were sick, we did a really great job at going to bed around 10pm in order to be well rested to start our days at 7am when Jazzy typically wakes up. Now that we're recovered, I'm not as strict about it but I still try my best to be in bed before 10:30. Waking up well rested is a better way to start a day, and it's really nice to sometimes wake up before the sun comes up and know that I'll enjoy every hour of sunlight the day has to offer because I was there for the first.
2. Add a daily ritual that's a treat
In this case, I'm not really thinking health & wellness, though all the better if you can fit in meditation, stretching, face masks, or your ritual of choice into the day. For me, this daily treat was an afternoon cup of hot cocoa that I would mix up for myself right as the afternoon faded into darkness. That final baby wake window is the longest (and boy do you feel it), and that one infusion of sugar, as well as the mental break it came with, helped carry me to Jazzy's 7pm bedtime, after which we could start to decompress and unwind.
3. Upgrade a few common household items
During our quarantine, we set up a new motion activated hand soap dispenser for use in the kitchen, and moved our old amber glass pump bottle (which I still love) downstairs into the basement bathroom. We also broke out new bath towels from H&M. These changes were small and didn't cost very much, but were upgrades to some very mundane but oft-encountered parts of our home, and made those things a little more convenient or a little more enjoyable to interact with.
4. Read (but not the news)
Reading is the quickest way to travel through time and space when you're physically bound somewhere. Being too plugged into the news can be stressful, so I concentrated on reading for enjoyment. During quarantine, I did some serious damage to my New Yorker pile, read non-fiction books (cookbooks and parenting books), and caught up on some of my favorite blogs. I believe there is always something to be gained and to learn from reading another's words, and I'm always happier when when I make time to read.
5. Celebrate even the smallest things
Jazzy turned 1 during quarantine. It certainly wasn't what we imagined for his 1st birthday. Although a part of me is still sad about it, most of me is happy that at least the three of us got to spent the day together. I whipped up a tiny batch of batter for just a few cupcakes so that we could have cake and a candle for him, and Kev and I sang to him right before his bedtime. We eventually got to celebrate with our extended family too, so it all worked out in the end.
Aside from this big event, we also tried to make the end of each day special. We burned votives to light up the night. We curled up on the couch together for movies. We kept a kettle on the stove for hot tea before bed.
January started off dicey, but it gave us the gift of perspective.
It was an opportunity to practice exercising the outlook that I aim to hold for life's challenges: Setbacks and hardships are inevitable, but what if they were also adventures? Covid is scary as hell, but we could worry and watch symptoms while also making quarantine about quality family time during recovery. We could deal with the bad and strive for joy at the same time.
When quarantine ended, we got to celebrate Jazzy's birthday with Kev's side of the family, and then mine. He was noticeably thrilled to see his grandparents and aunts (perhaps he was getting a little tired of being cooped up with us as well!) and we got to fill our home with loved ones once again.