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This time of year can be hard for some people. It can seem like there are a lot of dull and dismal days ahead. There is no magic cure for this feeling, but there are some things that can help make things a little better.
When fall starts feeling like it is breathing gently down the mountain, I go into crazy squirrel mode. One thing that keeps me going is just staying busy getting ready for the coming cold and related winter weather. Now is an excellent time to deep clean the house and put away seasonal items and trade them for cold season gear. I also start with a list of major pantry items we may want to have extras of. We have a four wheel drive only approach to our house, especially during inclement weather.
Ever since Matt and I moved back from Alaska, I have made it a point to go through basically everything we own a few times a year. This is when Fall comes and when Spring brings warm temperatures. By doing this, we don’t hoard up things we don’t use to an excess level. We have a small house. It is 480 sq ft with a 160 sq ft loft. We have other buildings, but those contain mostly farm items and things related to our vineyard and winery, not personal things like clothing, books, etc. It can feel good not to have clutter and garbage taking up space and causing you more work overall. More stuff=more dust and cleaning.
I just like the feeling of a little bit of a fresh start with my house during the change of the seasons. It makes it nicer when we hit the time of year when it is gray and dreary and possibly icy and snowy.
Plan your indoor and winter outdoor projects
The long evenings leading up to the solstice can leave one feeling idle or wondering what to do. Well, there are countless hobbies out there that can be done inside, but some take more investment than others. If you have a hobby, it can be uplifting to plan some projects to look forward to in the months to come. In a lot of areas, there are still some nice days to work outside in the winter so you may want to stack up some brushfires to burn when it is cold and snowy. We sure have stacked some up trying to clear out our understory and improve our woods. Plus you can roast hot dogs and marshmallows even with it snowy which can be a ton of fun for everyone!
Take time for yourself
Everyone needs something they do that is for them. Find time to take care of yourself. You will be a better person to those around you if you do so it is a win-win for everyone if a basic level of self-care is practiced. I do a lot of at-home facials and spa nights to unwind. It costs very little due to all the inexpensive beauty subscription sample boxes out there. For the lady preppers out there I recommend the Allure Beauty Box. You can cancel and resubscribe at any time. The value is often $80-$100, and you pay much less than that per month depending on what type of sale they have going on.
Try to see the beauty in the transition of the seasons
There is beauty in each seasonal transition. I lived in a climate for years that just had two seasons it seemed like. Where I live now, in Western North Carolina, we have four true seasons, and I love that so much.
Some of you may like the holiday season and have that to look forward to while others may be dreading it.
I try to stay positive during the holiday season but honestly, it is a season I could do without. More often than not it involves a lot of required activities and awkward moments.
Holidays have become even more stressful for a lot of people due to politics and finances. Unfortunately, a lot of people have found that even those they used to think would never let politics being a dividing factor have decided it is enough to make for a lot of awkward moments. You don’t even have to say that you side strongly with blue or red for people to get irritable. As a prepper, you may have to deal with some stereotypes.
My advice for getting through the holiday meals and hang out time is to avoid the topics that are most likely to get people overly emotional. I know people like to talk about politics but perhaps this holiday we should all try to steer the conversation in a different direction and concentrate on something more positive. If some cannot deal with a change of subject, I recommend making an excuse to exit the conversation and talk to someone else. Don’t give in and cause a scene. That is what a lot of people thrive on, unfortunately.
As far as dealing with the financial aspects of the holidays, it is important to realize that those in your life that do not subscribe to the philosophy of “it is the thought that counts” don’t understand how the season is supposed to be celebrated. There are some people out there that if you gave them a hat that you made that would sell for $100, would not be as good as getting them a hat that cost $30 from Abercrombie and Fitch.
Do what you can for the holidays but don’t stress yourself out or go out of your way for people that don’t appreciate the thought you put into a gift or you as a person. I get having to keep the peace and go to some things but remember to take care of yourself too!
Start thinking about your spring gardens
It is never too early to think about your spring garden. Now that we have the internet we do not have to await those colorful and artistic seed catalogs to appear in our mailbox before we start plotting.
Consider indoor gardening
I am using a Garden Tower, and they can be used inside and even placed on wheels. Growing some food inside can help make things feel a little more alive and nice. A few hanging baskets can often be incorporated into a space even if it is somewhat small.
Container gardening is very popular and gives us a breath of Spring even during the deep winter.
I recommend the book Lasagna Gardening For Small Spaces. It is just amazing what you can do. How special it would be to have a dinner or lunch in the middle of winter with some of the food you grow inside!
Spend some time with people that make you feel good
If you are feeling low then you should try to be around some positive people. They can be friends or family alike, the important thing is that they are a positive force in your life.
Get Exercise but make it as fun as possible!
Staying active is shown to improve overall mood and wellbeing. Any exercise is better than none. Going for a brisk walk or doing an hour workout at home, whatever it is you can manage, just do it. Those with limited abilities may be able to do more exercises than they realize. Doctors can offer advice on physical activity routines that can benefit you based on your abilities.
A lot of group exercises classes are available and can be a good way to socialize some during the Fall and Winter.
Review your preps
If you are stuck inside a bit more, it is an excellent time to examine all your preps. Check for damage and for anything that may be expired or near its expiration date. Consider if you have planned for everyone in the family and your pets.
Keep a list of things that you need to add to your preps
You may want to make a separate list for gear and food. Pantry supplies for the winter and any root cellar ambitions need attention now. You can put back a lot of food for little money with a little planning.
Check all your flashlights and make sure they are ready for use
With shorter days and longer nights, you may find that you need a flashlight more often. My husband and I keep a flashlight at each entryway and beside our bed. It makes it a lot easier to get up and out the door if we hear something getting into the chickens.
Our lighting is mostly 12 volt, so we have inside light if the regular power goes out but that doesn’t do us much good stomping around in the woods to check on the animals.
Consider your holiday gift list and start making some homemade presents
If you plan on making a lot of gifts for people, then late Fall is a good time to get started, so you can make sure to be finished. It is easy for time to get away from us.
Amp up the lighting
Lack of light can be a big deal in late Fall and early Winter. You may find that you would benefit from adding a few lamps with soft white light. Too much dark does little lighten one’s spirits during the longest evenings of the year. A few extra LED bulbs burning costs very little and can help improve productivity if you are working from home or freelancing in the evenings.
Those in very Northern Climates that are looking forward to barely any natural light have my sympathy. When I was in Ketchikan, Alaska at 22 years old I remember how I would go to work in the morning and come home at 5 o’clock and never see full sunlight except out my window. My poor husband worked in the basement of a copier repair store and office supply company. He dispatched the computer repair guys, did inventory, etc. He never even got to see daylight through a window most hours. I know people live everywhere, but I cannot help saying that it is not healthy to be trapped in an office under those conditions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder happens when you can’t shake the wintertime blues, but sometimes people are affected in the transition from Winter to Spring and Summer.
There are special lights designed for treating and preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a serious condition that can make life very difficult for someone and their family. If you or someone you care about seems to get beyond the typical case of seasonal blahs, they may need more treatment and support than the methods I have described for dealing with a Fall to Winter transition.
Note: It appears to be very rare for someone to experience SAD in the transition from Winter to Spring and Summer, but it is worth mentioning, so you have a better understanding of SAD. With millions of cases diagnosed at doctor’s offices in the USA each year, it is very common. You are not alone at all!
Signs of Major Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Major changes in weight
- Thoughts of harming oneself
- Substance abuse
- Inability to concentrate
- Symptoms go away when the days get longer, and Spring comes along
As you can probably tell, SAD mimics major depression in many ways, but it must be handled a bit differently regarding treatment.
I wanted to list some of the common methods used for SAD. Not all of these require a prescription or a big budget.
If adding some regular old fashioned light doesn’t do it then a special light designed to treat SAD can be purchased without a prescription, but many recommend asking your doctor about which one to get. If you are bipolar, you need to ask your doctor since the wrong light can have some not so great side effects.
I am not a big fan of people taking antidepressants unless necessary. A doctor may prescribe some antidepressants for at least a little while, but it seems like a little often turns into long-term use. If you can treat your SAD in other ways, it is going to better and less expensive.
Get outside even if you just sit in a chair awhile
Getting outside has been proven to be effective in reducing symptoms. Hitting the trail with a friend can add to the experience because it encourages some social interaction that can be lacking if someone has SAD.
Exercise regardless of the weather
There are a lot of exercises you can do inside if conditions are too rough or hazardous outside. Joining a gym and taking some classes can be helpful because it sets a schedule for you and you get to interact with others. Exercise is shown to positively affect mood long after you are done with it for the day.
Creative pursuits and meditation
Reading, writing, painting, and coloring can all help some people with the winter blues. The founder of BDS, Gaye did an excellent post on “Nine Reasons Why Adult Coloring is Important to Preppers“. Consider that a lot of creative activities are also things you can involve your kids and grandkids in.
What do you do to keep yourself positive or treat the winter blues? Have you been diagnosed with SAD? What treatment worked best for you?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]