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How I beat the winter blues

Daylight savings time came and brought with it a bunch of SAD – seasonal affective disorder. This happens every year for a lot of people, myself included, so here is what I (and my family) do to combat winter yucks.  

Seasonal depression used to debilitate me.  I was plagued with sadness, hopelessness, and felt an intense lack of motivation. Over the years, I slowly started changing things, but I’ll give you my key takeaways in order of what worked and what still works best for me. 

A Christmas tree for the whole winter  

I have been keeping our decorated Christmas tree up well past the holiday for years, and I swear, it is the number one mood lifter for me. I have suggested this to several people who feel sad in the winter, and every single one of them has reported fewer down moods. 

Each year, my dynamic combination of procrastination and seasonal fatigue had me putting up the Christmas tree the week of the holiday. New Year’s would come, and I would take the tree down immediately. That’s tradition! That’s what everyone does, so that’s what I did. 

Until 2011. 

We had just moved to Central PA, and my partner (now an incredible stay-at-home dad) was gone half the month flying planes all around the East Coast. I knew no one. Not a single human. I am one of the most extroverted people I know, so that was an especially rough winter for me. 

The Christmas tree went up that year, and with Kevin being away so much, I didn’t have anyone harassing me to take it down. As January slipped into February and into March, I came to realize that even though I was lonely that winter, I wasn’t nearly as sad as I usually was. 

So, for the past decade, our Christmas tree goes up anytime between now and Christmas, and it remains there until leaves are growing and flowers are blooming. 

If your partner isn’t on-board because they are a traditionalist (FYI to your partner: you can ALWAYS modify your life and make new traditions), tell them you want to try it one year to see if it works. (P.S. it will.) 

Because people always ask me, the answer is, “No, I do not change out the ornaments. It is a Christmas tree for four to five months. But your home is your space, so do what you want with your tree!” 

Get the right clothes and get outside 

We all know that exercise improves our mood, but getting that fresh air is paramount. There’s something about being outdoors that the treadmill just doesn’t provide.  

I understand this sounds very “duh,” but this was something I didn’t learn until right before Coraline came. I was raised by two wonderful, yet weather picky parents. Too hot? Forget it. Too cold? Nope.  

It takes a whole lot of work to change your upbringing. Learning how to “be outdoors during all seasons” was a struggle, but it was something I wanted to incorporate into my life. For me, the trick was as simple as having the correct clothing for the colder season. 

Winter boots that keep my feet warm vs. looking cute. A coat that insulates me so I don’t even notice it’s below freezing. Thermal undergarments for my torso and legs. Gloves that work rather than being fashionable. Hats that ensure ear protection. A face covering for those extra chilly days. 

Now I can easily play outside with my kid, who also has the proper attire, for long stretches of time and teach her that any weather is do-able as long as you’re outfitted correctly. 

Remember to get outside without your offspring, too! Lunch break? Take a walk. Target or Costco run? Walk the perimeter of the parking lot before you go in. Have some extra time? Visit one of our many local parks, walk by the Susquehanna River, or do laps in your neighborhood. Just make sure to dress correctly so you stay toasty warm! 

Schedule “after dark” activities 

Do not, I repeat do not, stay holed up in your house after it gets dark. The spring, summer, and fall keep us active because there’s a lot to do. In the winter, it gets oddly quiet, so make sure to schedule activities to keep you and the family busy!  

Plan a weeknight dinner over at a friend’s house. Set up a playdate. Get people together for a game night. Take the kids to an indoor gym, trampoline park, or somewhere they can run around. Take advantage of the dozens of free activities your local library and government put together for both adults and children.  

Just put events on the calendar, and then do them – even if you don’t feel like it. Dragging yourself and your kids out of the house will end up improving everyone’s mood, not just yours. 


Bitsy McCann
Bitsy McCann owns a boutique graphic design firm in Harrisburg, PA, performs original music all around Central PA, officiates one-of-a-kind weddings, and spends most of her free time obsessing over her husband and toddler. She would absolutely welcome your thoughts and commentary - send her a message on either LinkedIn or Facebook

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