Sunday, February 21, 2010

Singing the winter Blues

February. March. This is the time of year when the drollness of snow and ice, slushy streets and plummeting temperatures begin to take their toll on us all. “Not again,” we find ourselves saying when white flakes appear. “Not again” to the icy streets and snowplows. The childish indulgences of playing in the snow with our dogs, the joy of waking up to a world covered in white, these are long gone.

February depresses me and do I ever have cabin fever! Even my “Happy Light deluxe” can't cheer me up when yet another day is filled with grey skies and heavy snowfall. February sucks.

But February is here to stay, at least for a few more days, and I'm sure March will be no different. Each sign of spring is squashed with a freezing night or heavy snow. I'm ready to shed snowboots for Birkenstocks but that would be insane.

So instead we live with winter, and we cope. How to handle cabin fever? How can we enjoy the beauty of this (seemingly neverending) season? As I sit tucked into my chair under several blankets and a cat, I have given this a lot of thought.

I long to be active this time of year. I want to run and bike and swim, but instead I find myself confined to the couch. Here are a few things I've found helpful for me-- simple, inexpensive, and holistic ways to bring some joy into a winter day: every Sunday night and several times during the week I dedicate an hour or so to yoga time. Rather than my quick 10 minute stretches in the morning and before bed this time is for serious reflection and work.

Idea One: Do Yoga

  • First, turn off your cell phone. Nothing like being interrupted during meditation to ruin the effect!
  • Turn off all but a few lights and light a few candles. Meditating and yoga by candle light always relaxes me immensely.
  • Put on some relaxing music. Now is the time for that Enya CD. I have a Pandora station specifically for such occasions.
  • Begin with several minutes of mindful breathing and breathing exercises. Use the candles as a focal point and really work at relaxing and getting your mind and body to slow.
  • Enter your yoga practice slowly and deliberately, and work until you are tired. An hour of slow-paced yoga with each pose taking several breathes is a great way for me to not only work my body but calm my mind.
  • Cool down with some more meditation.
If you are new to yoga, try some of the guided podcasts online or catch a local class. You're sure to appreciate the benefits!

Idea Two: Design a Knitting or Crochet Pattern

This is a knitting blog after all (at least in theory!) For my overactive mind, the hours in front of the television or listing to NPR become a lot more focused and fruitful when I feel I am working on something tangible. Design a knitting pattern, however easy. Maybe you'd have a cute hat in mind, or even a lacy scarf? This is a great way to flex your knitting muscles and perhaps learn something new if you've never designed before! Check out The Knitting Penguin for some great tips ( and a way to make free charts using Open Office!

I'm currently working on a scarf for The Persistent Pooch. It's the first time I've ever designed or charted lace, and it's quite an adventure! 

Idea Three: Tackle a Household Project
Tackle a project you've been putting off-- weekends are usually pretty dull for me. By the time I get home on Friday the last thing I want to do is drive half an hour to the closest town. So I find myself spending a lot of time in my house rather than on the icy roads. Since my dogs are too old for much walking or playing, and my cats are well, cats, I'll have several hours to myself. One can only knit so much! My weekends are perfect for large projects. While you might not have a whole lot of time on your hands, even a small project can reinvigorate you, and the feeling of accomplishment should beat away some of the winter boredom. Get started!
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes should be enough for a small project!
  • Pick a goal that you can get done in 15 minutes. This morning I finally finished unpacking my bathroom. This does not mean it is clean, or finished. Cleaning, unpacking and decorating would have taken a day but just unpacking was quick. This means I have a garbage bag to take out, boxes to break down, and some furniture to move around. Yet, the task of unpacking and organizing all those hair products, bandaids, and dog shampoos had been on my to do list for months. Now they're done!
  • After 15 minutes is done, take a break. Grab a beer, knit a few rows, or read a book.
  • Set the timer for another 15 minutes and get some more done.
Since you're not dedicating an entire day to those projects you won't feel a sense of cleaning doom, nor will your entire day be eaten by such tasks. Just a few intervals will get a lot done!

Idea Four: Cook Something 
When I get bored, I cook. Grab you favorite cookbook or hit and tackle that elusive cooking goal you've had for a while! Two weekends ago I made soft prezels, and last weekend it was bagels! Not only did I make really tasty snacks, I was incredibly happy to finally have tackled this goal! And, I had a great breakfast the next day!

Try this soft pretzel recipe, or this bagel recipe for a delicious treat!

Idea Five: Give Something Away
Go through your clothes to make room for spring items! – Even if you're not planning a spring shopping spree, go through your clothes and get rid of a few things. You'll be happy for the extra space in your closet, and a trip to Goodwill (which is tax deductible) will be a nice pick-me-up. Plus, when spring finally comes around you'll be able to pick up a few new things without overloading your current space!

Idea Six: Recycle Something

Grab that old dress you never wear, and turn it into something new. Much like culling your closet, this will not only be satisfying and fun, it will be an afternoon of creativity and focus. Nothing like staying in the house on a snowy Sunday when you can put on a pot of coffee and create something entirely new, and totally unique!

With that, I think I am going to go make some more bagels! They were so delicious last week I need them for breakfast tomorrow! My favorite--as always--were the cinnamon sugar  bagels so I think I'm going to make a whole batch of them this week!

If you have any great “beat the winter blues” suggestions please let me know! Winter, you're going down!

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