Weather can have a real impact on mood and coping, whether you like it or not. There are those of you who love the dark and cold and snow, I know. I can't relate, but I know you exist. For you, this post may seem completely unnecessary. But for the rest of us, getting through the fall and winter months is tough, even without grief. Layer loss on top of that and it can complicate matters tremendously.
The problem with waiting for winter to talk about winter is that, by the time it comes, it has already started zapping motivation and energy. A while back Eleanor wrote a post about why winter is the worst for grievers. You may want to check that out for more info on why winter can be so tough. Today we are focusing less on the 'why' and more on the quick tips for what you can do. Planning is crucial and it needs to start now, while the sun is still shining, so you are emotionally prepped when the darkness and cold hit. These are just a few of our ideas for coping with the winter blues, so please keep the list going by adding your own in the comments!
Oh, PS, we know 64 tips is a lot. It might feel a little overwhelming. But people are different, needs are different, what works for one person doesn't work at all for another person. So 64 tips it is.
- Write a list of winter activities you enjoy, so you can refer to it when the hibernation funk sets in (some ideas coming below).
- Write a list of indoor projects you want to accomplish this winter, to keep you motivated and inspired (some ideas coming below).
- Create a scrapbook or memory book in honor of your loved one.
- Start working on the memorial or legacy project you have been wanting to do (a memorial celebration, scholarship fund, memorial walk, etc).
- Make a list of people you have lost touch with who you want to reach out to by phone, email or social media.
- Make a plan to start sorting through your loved one's belongings if you have been putting it off and want to do it.
- Go through and organize, scan, print, etc old photographs (of your loved one or otherwise).
- Set some TV boundaries - some TV is a great, healthy escape. Too much TV can become a fall/winter hibernation problem.
- Make a list of shows and movies you really want to watch, so when you are watching TV it is things you really enjoy/value and not just mindless channel surfing.
- Stock up on puzzles.
- Stock up on books.
- Stock up on materials for arts, crafts, etc.
- Stock up on games.
- If winter really gets you down, consider a light box designed for seasonal affective disorder.
- Sign up for a class at a local community college, community center, or library to keep you motivated and get you out of the house.
- Sign up for an online class (we have some grief courses here and the internet is filled with TONS of other courses on anything you can think of!).
- Start scheduling regular get-togethers with good friends or family for coffee or dinner.
- Consider volunteering somewhere meaningful to you or your loved one.
- If you can afford it, get a really good warm coat and boots that will make it a little easier to face the cold when motivation is low.
- Plan for indoor exercise options that you enjoy, if you know you won't get outdoors to workout. Consider DVDs, YouTube videos, or a home exercise machine.
- Try not to cancel plans. Sometimes you have to, for self-care, but be careful when it becomes a pattern.
- If it is in the budget, plan a mid-winter vacation somewhere warm and sunny to give yourself a break and something to look forward to.
- Join a book club (email us if you want to join the WYG online book club).
- Join an in-person support group. (Read our considerations about groups here)
- Join an online support group. (Again, read our considerations about groups here).
- Start a blog (or keep blogging!).
- Start journaling (or keep journaling!).
- Make meal plans to try to keep your eating on track.
- Make healthy grocery lists and stick to them, to avoid filling the house with junk comfort food.
- Challenge yourself to learn to cook and bake, especially healthy meals, if your normal go-to is microwave meals or carry out.
- If it is your first winter filling winter "roles" your loved one used to fill, get prepared before the need arises.
- Do you know where the snow shovel, sidewalk salt, ice scraper, snowblower, etc are and how to use them? If not, plan in advance who can teach you or do it for you when needed.
- Do you know how to light/start your furnace? If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
- Are you able to get winter clothes out of an attic/basement, etc? If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
- Do you know how to put on snow tires or tire chains on your car? If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance
- Plan for who will fill holiday roles, like shopping, decorating, and meal preparation.
- Keep alcohol in check. If you drink, set reasonable limits and stick to them.
- Get outside for a little bit when it is sunny, even if it cold. Sunlight helps you physically and psychologically.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal with at least one gratitude a day, so you can focus on some of the good things about living in the cold winter months.
- Open your blinds and curtains during the day to let in as much natural light as possible.
- Trim back tree branches that are blocking light from windows.
- Use a light alarm to wake up in the morning.
- Make a list of outside-the-house indoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation. Some suggestions are:
- Go to a museum.
- Go to a play.
- Go to a concert.
- Go to a local lecture.
- Go to a movie.
- Join a rec indoor winter sports team, like basketball, indoor soccer, indoor lacrosse, etc.
- Make a list of outside-the-house outdoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation. Some suggestions are:
- Go ice skating.
- Go skiing, snow tubing, or snowboarding.
- Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
- Go snowmobiling.
- Ask a friend for support if you are struggling with motivation by asking them to join you in one of the above activities for the company and to make you less likely to cancel.
- Listen to music, specifically music that cheers you up and boosts your mood. Start making playlists now!
- Keep to a good sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time as often as possible.
- Make evening plans right after work, so you are less likely to fall into the trap of going home, losing motivation from the dark and cold, and canceling.
- Be self-aware about external factors that are impacting your mood. Does watching the news get you down? Skip it. Does social media make you feel connected and positive? Then get online! Does it make you feel frustrated, negative or annoyed? Then skip it or limit it.
- Start to learn a new language through a class, software or online.
- Learn how to meditate through a class, online guided meditations, or an app.
- If you are struggling to keep your head above water, talk to a therapist who can help with your individual needs.
- Be honest about the impact of the seasons on mood, even if the seasons have never been a challenge before. If you felt like you were finally having more good days than bad in your grief and suddenly you are having more bad days than good, consider whether the weather is a factor and if some of the above might help.
- Cut yourself some slack. There will be days you don't manage a single thing on this list, and that's okay. You will have the chance to try again tomorrow.
- Like articles about grief and tips for coping? Sign up to subscribe and get a weekly email with our latest posts right to your inbox.
We wrote a book!
After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books: