Every single year, it’s the same old story: winter is coming, coming, coming…then it gets here. And we get sad. Growing up on the East Coast (and still living there today), I’m used to the familiar patterns of the seasons. I enjoy being able to experience all four seasons every single year (though autumn is often too short). But for some reason, every year I am shocked at how hard it is to adjust when winter hits. I get sad, angry, annoyed and frustrated at the challenges winter brings. So, what can we do about it?
To be clear, I don’t “hate” the wintertime. Christmas is my favorite holiday; I love snow; and warm drinks by a fire are a favorite pastime of mine. But that doesn’t mean winter doesn’t bring its challenges! Every season has its positives and negatives, and it’s important to acknowledge both.
What are the main challenges? Well for one, the sun sets MUCH earlier than I’d prefer. Looking outside and seeing it’s nighttime when I finish work for the day can be discouraging. And on days when the sun isn’t shining much, I may as well be in the dark.
Obviously the weather is another challenge (colder temperatures, sleet, snow, wind, etc.). But what’s actually more challenging about the weather is the way it impacts what I get to do. Being outside and exercising are some of my most reliable ways to combat depression. When the winter hits, everything I do outside happens less (including running, one of my favorite ways to get outside), and that’s challenging.
But in recent years, there’s something I learned that’s been helpful for my mental health. And that’s the fact that even though the winter is the same challenge every year, I’m not the same person. Winter will always provide challenges; some years they might be the same old ones. Other times, a new challenge will arise, or one will return that hasn’t been a problem in years. But I can’t necessarily control these things.
What I can control is how I react to these things. What I can do is remember that I’m not the same person I was last winter. I’m not the same person today as I was yesterday, and I won’t be the same person tomorrow as I am today. So what was challenging for me last year could be something I am prepared to handle this year.
This time of year, like everything else in life, has its ups and downs. There will be good times and bad times. There will be moments where I am overjoyed, and moments where I’m sad and depressed. But there’s strength in knowing what you’re up against and figuring out how to face that. Every year I’m reminded how important that strength is, and it gives me courage for the days and months ahead.