Beating those Bleak Mid-Winter Blues

I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s having a tough start to the year. With the Fifth Wave circulating, stressful decisions about school closures, and the usual “bleak mid-winter” darkness of the Pacific Northwest, I think we’re all just hanging in there until the spring. Inspired by my friend Mel’s recent post about self care I wanted to share some of the ways that I’ve been keeping my head above water so far in these first trying weeks of 2022.

Movement. I don’t want to say exercise because that often suggests a “weight loss” agenda, especially at the outset of a new year, and that isn’t at all what I mean. Moving your body helps so much to keep things in perspective, get yourself out of the house in the winter, and just to clear your mind. I’ve been making it a priority to move every single day and it’s been having a super positive effect on my headspace day to day. Some days I’ve felt energized and motivated to do a more intense movement like running or cycling, but some days I just do stretches before bed or a short yoga video. Sometimes I only have time for a kitchen dance party with the kids but other times it feels good to do a heavy, slow strength workout with dumbbells.

Meditation. I’ve had problems falling asleep since I was a teenager and had mostly gotten a handle on it, but pandemic parenthood has given me a lot more to ruminate on after the sun goes down and it’s been back with a vengeance lately. Doing a 20 minute sleep meditation in the evenings has really helped me acknowledge and breathe through my anxieties without letting them take hold of my mind. I used to think it was a bit “woo woo” but there’s something to be said for mindfully acknowledging your feelings without the pressure of trying to turn them off, ignore them, or change them.

Creative Projects. Bob Seger once said that he writes most of his stuff in the winter and I must admit that my own creativity spikes in winter, too. The summer makes me feel too lethargic to get anything done but the energy of the new year always makes me feel invigorated. Just like I need to move my body I also need to move my hands, and I’ve been revisiting half-finished crochet and sewing projects and constantly jotting down ideas for new articles and blogs. Is it easier to create when we have less stimuli? Who knows, but I’m embracing it while it’s here and I have the time.

Home Improvement Projects. I’ve always been a homebody but even I’m not used to spending quite this much time in my own house. Small-scale, achievable, budget-friendly DIY home improvements always help me feel like I’m steadily moving forward through the fog of January and February toward brighter days. I know I’m gonna be super busy with work this summer so it’s been nice to get things done to help us continually fall back in love with our home. Sometimes these projects are fun, like painting (my fave!) and sometimes they’re tedious, like organizing bathroom clutter or going through kids clothes, but they always make me feel light and happy once they’re done. Everyone likes the feeling of accomplishing a task, right?

I do want to acknowledge that not everyone has the time or energy these days to get stuff done and if you’re not there right now, by all means bask in the joy and contentment of Doing Nothing! Rest is so important and I sincerely hope we all get some. But if you feel that your mind needs some distraction or you just need something to propel you through these next two months (anyone else counting down the weeks until the time change?) then hopefully you can gain some motivation or learn something new!

Hope you’re all having a healthy month.

2021: A Year of Endings, A Year of Beginnings

I woke today feeling the soft tenderness that always comes along with January 1st, at least for me. It’s more difficult these days to find the stillness and quiet that a person needs in order to reflect when they’re feeling introspective, but I’m able to snatch a few moments here and there between naps and snacks.

If I had to characterize 2020 I’d say that with pregnancy, Covid, and then colic, it can be pretty solidly defined by the word anxiety. Actually, maybe the word would be discomfort. Just a constant state of discomfort from morning sickness, an unrelenting news cycle, and lockdowns with two young children at home. Then recovering from my third birth in four years, adjusting to life with three at home, and spending sixteen hours a day bouncing a screaming baby. Discomfort. Like many other families, 2020 was not our finest or our favourite year. We did not flourish.

For us, 2021 was more chaotic but thankfully also much more fun. There was a sense of finality and newness, of endings and beginnings. The pregnancy and baby years closed for us with the year, taking with it the bittersweet experience of raising a last baby, of seeing all the milestones of her first year knowing that we’ll never have another one. 2021 was also the last year I spent as a breastfeeding mother, a journey I loved and felt so rewarded by. These little finalities made the year both challenging and rich.

Amidst those tender conclusions were beginnings that herald the start of a new chapter for our family. Our first child started Kindergarten, kicking off the seventeen years that we’ll have one or more kids in school. A new and deeply-loved, rewarding job for me outside the home after five years out of the workforce. A lot of new friendships after starting a local mom group totally on a whim. There have been many bittersweet, complex, rich, euphoric, and mournful feelings for me in 2021 as I finally carved out a little sliver of self identity from the long fog of early motherhood.

The little things have been pretty sweet, too. Learning how to chop wood and make a fire. Trying new recipes. Making breakfast in a sunny kitchen. Bonfires at the neighbours house. Organizing kitchen cupboards between nap times. Hennie’s excitement when we pick her up from school. New library books. A freshly mowed lawn. Good coffee after a full night’s sleep. Painting. Building. Running. As the world has felt in a real upheaval these last years it has sure given us fresh perspective and a new appreciation for our privilege and our simple, small luxuries.

Happy New Year, friends! I hope that even amidst the anxiety of 2021 you are able to tap into gratitude for all you were given.