06 March 2008

How to get THROUGH the Winter

I told you I had a list!

Several people have messaged or emailed me, asking how I keep a positive attitude and/or how I get through these long winters. I know a couple of people who are new to Maine this year, or as of the last few years.

First, I'm glad I've fooled you all into thinking I have a positive outlook! The reality is that the winters here can be hard. When we made the decision to live here (and stay here) after living in Southern California for 4 years, it was not a decision I took lightly.

Some winters have been harder than others. I remember 4 or 5 years ago, we got very little snow at all, but the temperatures were some of the coldest Maine had seen in quite some time. Most of the month of January was at least 10 degrees below zero with windchills near 30 below - even in the middle of the day. THAT was hard.

That winter, for the first time, I understood why people leave Maine in the wintertime. And for the first time, I was actually afraid of the weather. I felt vulnerable and knew that if I spent any amount of time out in that weather without proper shelter and/or clothing, I could die. That was humbling, to say the least. I thought spring would never arrive that year.

But spring came, as it always does, and by mid-June, I was begging my husband to install our air-conditioning window units.

So here are a few things I do to make the long winter not only more bearable, but often quite delightful ~

1. Two words: comfort foods. There is a reason they have this name. Lasagna, mac-n-cheese, chili, cakes, pies, breads, cookies. Not only is this a great way to give yourself a treat, but the oven helps to heat the house (well, our old leaky oven does, anyway). If you don't want to eat all the goodies, share them with your neighbors... which leads me to #2...

2. Go outside EVERY day. This doesn't mean walking from house to car, car to work, and then back again. I mean, walk outside, take a deep breath, stretch, smell the winter smells, and maybe pop over to see a neighbor (and take some of those cookies to them!)

3. Take advantage of the sunny days. Sometimes winter in Maine can be grey and dreary for days on end. For me, more than 4 days of grey usually means some kind of a snap in my attitude - and that can be scary - just ask my kids. This winter has been especially kind to us in the area of sunshine, and whenever the day is sunny, I go for a walk or a drive, just to drink it in. Also, try putting a chair in front of a sunny window so the sun hits you right in the face. Close your eyes for a few minutes and soak it in. Our cats have mastered this and I've learned from them. Do it - you'll see.

4. Surround yourself with color. Did you know that in Iceland, they paint the houses a variety of bright colors, just to lift the spirits of the residents during the long winters? It works. In our own little "iceland" here, we need color too. If you can afford it, buy fresh flowers at the supermarket every week and keep them where you can see (and smell) them often. Or do what I do - invest, long term, in fake flowers that LOOK real. These are some I found at T.J. Maxx a couple of weeks ago.

5. Exercise. Ok, before you skip this one, hear me out. This doesn't mean jogging through the slush three times/week. Just move your body. Wintertime here makes it so easy to just sit all day long. So, when you go to the grocery store, rather than vying for the front row parking, park farther out and take the walk that you need (you're already dressed for it, so why not?) Also, while in the store, take a few laps. Go back and forth across the store a few times. No one will notice. And even if they do, who cares? You get the idea.

6. Start your garden early. This is one I really don't want to talk about, because I FAIL at it each year. So - do as I SAY, not as I DO. Start your garden indoors, in front of a sunny window. Do it. Maybe I will, too.

7. Don't be a social hibernator. I find it so easy to just hole up in the winter time and avoid any and everyone until it's warm enough to wear sandals again. But a healthier and happier choice is to meet with friends, even just for a cup of coffee, if you can't get out at night. So go meet a friend, go on a date with your hubby or wife, or take the kids to McDonald's for ice cream. Or... talk over email (yeah, that flies in the face of #5, but what the heck - it's my communication venue of choice). And of course, let's not forget MySpace!

8. Find a fun winter activity. There's so much to do here... ice skating, skiing (downhill AND cross country), snowmobiling, ice fishing, winter hiking, etc. Getting through the winter is easier when you look forward to something on a regular basis.

I hope that helps a bit. Don't despair! March is probably the hardest month because we have a day on the calendar that tells us spring is here, while outside our window, it so clearly is NOT. It will come though - I can promise you that. Until then, I want to see you taking laps around Hannaford and Wal-Mart. I promise not to tell anyone. ;)

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

No comments: