As you may already know, I’m not always the cheeriest person. In private, anyway. And winter, well, let’s just say it’s not my best season. The cold makes my Raynauds-inflicted fingers swell and crack and go completely numb, rather interfering with typing and peeling oranges, among other essential life tasks. Psoriatic arthritis-ridden joints become actively painful. And there’s the isolation issue: I have to evaluate the necessity of every public outing, from church to grocery shopping, because a compromised immune system and peak flu season are not a great combination.
Worst of all, my wardrobe vanishes because it’s hard (though not impossible!) to wear shorts!
It seems a very long time before I’ll see these in my yard again.
So this year, I have a new motto. “Beat the Bleak!” After the disaster which was last winter, I am determined that things are going to be different in 2015.
My weapons so far: Signing up for two physical challenges at the Manchester Rec Center. Before the end of the month, I’m going to swim the Seven Mile Bridge in FL, which, when built, was one of the longest bridges in existence
Because I already swim a mile most weekdays, I’m hoping to swim to the end and back again. I’m not going to describe the agony of getting into the chilly pool in the morning. I’ll just say it’s worth it.
I also signed up to “walk to Deerfield, IL,” home of Walgreens. It’s about 550 miles: for every mile we walk on the track or greenway, we count 5 miles. First finishers get Walgreens’ gift cards; the rest of us get a pharmacy goodie bag and the usual t-shirt.
I don’t know about you, but I love prizes. Even if they turn out to be pill boxes and toothpaste samples, I’ll have won something! That’s motivation to keep moving on those days when I’d rather not. And we all know that exercise is essential in mood control.
Another weapon, my lightbox. My doc keeps telling me there’s a lot of research to prove its effectiveness at keeping the bleak at bay. So I’m religiously using it this year: 30 minutes first thing in the morning, preferably before dawn, just a glance every few seconds as I’m getting ready to go to the gym (see above).
Then there’s Starbucks. If you buy one of their travel mugs in December, you get a free grande brewed coffee every day in January. This is a big deal to someone raised to never spend money, and it offers its own kind of competition to the obsessive among us: can I get to a Starbucks frequently enough to justify the $30 expense? No, there’s none close to our isolated cove, BUT—there IS one right close to the Rec Center. More motivation to swim and walk!
Later this month, the Manchester Library starts its Adult Reading Program: opportunity to win prizes for books read! A win-win competition for this compulsive reader. Plus a couple of the librarians, like my favorite lifeguard at the pool and my fellow swimmers, give me the chance to socialize with living beings, a challenge when you work at home.
A last essential weapon is GoodReads. I am moderator for an ongoing group, “House of LitnLife,” and right now, we’re reading War and Peace together. Which turns out to have a lot of hilarious moments in it. I love the people in my group. They’ve become, over the last two years, friends, intellectual companions, emotional encouragers. OK, so I may never actually meet them in person, but they are a vital part of my life.
That’s some of my ammunition to “beat the bleak.” You may not struggle with low mood during any season, but if you do, what are your strategies?