Preparing for a Bleak Mid-Winter

Last winter was rough. I had never thought that I experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but that was definitely exactly what I experienced, along with insane loneliness in lockdown after lockdown while living alone in a new town where I hadn’t really made any friends yet, thanks to the lockdowns and work-from-home. It was the worst winter of my life. And despite the fact that I have solid friends now and we are back in the office, I am still very worried about surviving the winter up here. It is so long and so cold and I may now have lived longer in Canada than anywhere else, by several years, I honestly believe that where you spend you winters as a child determines how you do in winter as an adult. And I spent my childhood in Tennessee, we didn’t have white Christmases and at most it got to be like -20C? I think I remember one 0F, maybe a few 2Fs in the worst of winter, but only for a few days. Here, it’s -20 to -30C for months on end. Winter starts in October and ends in May and I need to be prepared.

The Gear

I already have a great coat, this one from L.L. Bean, it’s very, very warm. It can even be too warm in transitional seasons. But this year I need a few other things, my snow boots started to leak last year, my thick sock stash is running low (I miss my annual gift of thick, thick socks from one of the older vets at the clinic I used to work at), new mittens and/or gloves, and I think I may need snow pants to be able to properly engage in winter activities.

I did join curling last winter, however, I fell and hit my head and gave myself a really bad concussion. And to say that I’m nervous about getting back on the ice is an understatement, so I think I’m going to give snowshoeing a try (and a few of my friends mentioned it, so it would be something we could do together – god I’m a dork).

One. Tivoli IV Parc Boot. I think these are the snow boots I’m going to go with this winter, I like the more leather look than the other Tivoli books, the canvas ones, these ones look a bit sleeker. I’m going to get a size 10 boot this year to have room for thick socks.

Two. Snowshoes. I haven’t decided yet if these are exactly the ones I’m going to go for, but I trust L.L. Bean and I like the look of these ones. And I don’t know how much I weigh at the moment, but given what I think I weigh, these will support me on the snow.

Three. Snow pants. If I want to actually do stuff outdoors this winter then I need to be dressed and that includes at the legs. I think I also want insulated and/or fleece-lined leggings or base layers so that if it isn’t cold enough to need snow pants or I’m not planning on getting wet I don’t have to fully gear up.

Four. Car snow brush. This is an essential to live in a snowy climate, or even a climate the gets a hard frost that you have to scrape off your car each morning. Mine was done at the end of last winter and I threw it out and now I need a new one and I keep forgetting to buy one.

Five. Car Emergency Kit. I’m always so nervous that I’m going to get stuck somewhere and not have cell phone service. Because that is a very real situation up here.

Six. Warm gloves that aren’t too thick and heavy. I really like running gloves because of how thin they are, but because of how thin they are they are not enough for anything below -15C (and that’s pushing them). So I need to get warmer gloves that still allow me to use our hands.

Seven. Icebreaker Socks. These are the best socks for winter. These are the socks that the vet I used to work for gave out at Christmas and I love them. They are not cheap, but I love them and it’s time that I buy myself some.

The Activities

One of the things that I need to make sure that I have set up this winter is socializing opportunities and exercise activities so that I have a regular stimulus of endorphins to make up for those lost to the cold and dark.

  • Board game nights
  • Movie nights
  • Winter hikes
  • Snowshoeing
  • Learning to ice skate
  • Needlepointing
  • Group fitness classes

The important thing about these things is that they can be done solo or with friends (except the board game nights and group fitness classes of course) so they can hopefully help provide some serotonin and dopamine throughout this winter.

The one thing that I am really hoping will not happen this winter is another lockdown. I don’t think that another one is likely unless people start dropping dead in the street. I don’t think that there is political will, I don’t think that small businesses and the general economy can handle another lockdown. I don’t think restaurants can handle another lockdown, I don’t think that the gig economy, servers, bartenders, museums without huge endowments, general tourist attractions, hotels, airlines, trains, I don’t think that they can survive another lockdown. And I don’t think that the government can bail anyone out again. We are too fragile for another lockdown. And while I don’t know if that will be a good thing for COVID-19 cases and death, I do think it will be good for my mental health.

The other thing that I am planning to do is take Vitamin D and go for walks at lunch. Last winter I was not very good at using the sunlight there is everyday, and make up for the sun that there isn’t. So I’m going to start taking a vitamin D supplement and prioritize going for walks on my lunch. This should replace my morning walks for activity, but also provide some sun exposure since soon we will be going to work in the dark, working in a windowless office, and coming home from work in the dark. Although, daylight savings time isn’t until November this year, which feels late for some reason, but I’m excited that we still have a couple weeks left before the darkness truly sets in.

The biggest thing that I want to keep up is that I truly settled into a healthy routine this summer. I was going for walks, I wasn’t binge eating, and I was genuinely independently happy – without relying on friendships or relationships for happiness. Which then makes me a better friend, family member, and potential partner. And so trying to maintain these, and expand on them in the cold and dark of our 7 month winter is crucial.

And here’s to thriving, even in the darkest of winters.


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