Blah and Bleh: 9 Ways I Fight Off the Mid-Winter Doldrums


I’ve been fighting off a cold most of this week, feeling a bit more lethargic and achy and throat-tickly than usual. And it’s bitterly cold out, and it’s cloudy all the time, and blah and bleargh and bleh…yes, it’s the mid-winter doldrums in full effect.

I usually enjoy winter, but it’s usually because I make it through the season without illness. This year, I’m realizing nothing sucks harder than being sick when it’s cold out. You feel like you will never be well again, and everything is starting to taste like those Halls Vitamin C Defense drops I keep sucking on. Yick!

Still, I am a trooper. And when I’m not sick, I’m still a winter fan, because I love how everything slows down, takes a deep breath, snuggles down and maybe gets off the grind a little bit — enough so that you’re refreshed and energetic for spring. Maybe this cold is some way of making me slow down a bit, at least until the rest of me catches up. Until then, here are some of the things lifting my spirits just a bit this season — no trips to tropical paradise included!

Go Bowling

I like any indoor sport where you can play while drinking beer and eating potato skins topped with sour cream and bacon. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me into a weekly group leisure activity, bowling would be it. But in all seriousness, it’s nice to get a bit of movement in, even if it’s just a spot of Dance Central or bowling or lazy human yoga or something. It feels like the last thing you want to do when you just want to lie there in your bed all day, but it always feels worth it to me once I get going.

Eat More Fruits & Veggies

Another thing I don’t want to do when it’s cold outside is eat more fruits and veggies — but when I do, it’s like this switch goes on in my body and I’m like, Wowwwww, all these vitamins and minerals are good for me, I need morrreeeeee. I was really good about green smoothies for most of January — and I’m great at them in the summer, when fresh produce is super-abundant. I feel 10x better when I have them, so I just need to get over my odd seasonal aversion to fresh things — and my craving for rich, creamy, yummy buttery things, I suppose — and incorporate them back into my diet, because my body and immune system is starving for some green freshness, even if my taste buds aren’t.

Bake Stuff

I like to cook, but I am not a baker by temperament. The whole enterprise confounds me. However, I found a crazy-good local sale of those Babycakes donut and cupcake makers, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of my apartment filling up with the cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla smells of yumminess — a nice panacea to the icy, grey ickiness outside. I know buying a “maker” is a bit like cheating, but I’m completely discombobulated when it comes to baking and it reduces the intimidation factor. Because baking is mad intimidating to me. How do you soften butter? What’s this sifting? What do you mean, only mix enough until large lumps are gone? What about small lumps? I really don’t know how baking relaxes people because it only makes me anxious! But I’m game to find out…and dying to make cardamom and peach donuts.

Soak in Hot Water

I only really go to my gym because I love the steam sauna and hot tub — I figure while I’m there, I might as well work out, right? There is just nothing better than a nice long soak and steam turning all your muscles into noodles. I’m really bummed, though, because my gym is closing the pool and hot tubs to renovate, expand and put in some chair lifts and stuff like that. So they’ll be closed for two weeks. Way to ruin my mid-winter steez, guys! I guess I’ll have to make do with my own tub and lavender-scented Epsom salts and steaming up my tiny bathroom — which actually are a fine alternative after all. Once I clean my tub, that is…

Lazy Bastard Weekends

It’s easy to read a list like this in a perky Pollyanna way, like, “I’m not going to let winter get me down! Everything is great! Bunnies! Rainbows! Unicorns!” But I’m not fighting the nature of winter — I’m embracing it as a time to slow down, simmer, burrow. In other words, hibernate and wallow in the rhythms of the season. I’m a fan of what’s called “Lazy Bastard Weekends” — those kind of periods of times when you just lounge in your sweatpants, watch TV, read fashion magazines and totally turn your brain off. I’m totally a proponent of rest and restoration now in general — my work and life and creativity get so much better when I take for-reals breaks to play and be lazy and dreamy and reclusive, instead trying to work a little bit all the time. Constant work and productivity is just not a sustainable life. And winter, for all its hardships, is sort of like an enforced rest break for nature and for ourselves.

Get Some Fresh Air

This is yet another counter-intuitive move, because don’t you want to be inside all the time when it’s cold out? I don’t want to overdo it, of course, and I’m not about to take an hour-long hike when I’m nursing a cold — but when I get better, it’ll be nice to get done fresh outdoor air in my lungs. Bracing!

Movie and Music Marathons

I like marathon bouts of cultural consumption in the winter, which seems to reward sustained attention and concentration, since there’s no warm sunshine distracting you with promises of drinking wine on a summer evening in a park, taking walks by the river as the sunset nestles into the horizon….ach! What am I doing to myself? Time to buckle down instead and re-read A Song of Ice and Fire, or watch all of “The Wire,” or read every single article I’ve clipped from “Vanity Fair” but haven’t yet read, or listen to every single Bob Dylan record in chronological order…you get the idea. If you ever wanted to become an expert in anything, winter is the time.

Work on a Semi-Big Project

I feel so bleh lately, so lazy and motivated, so this blog-to-book project I concocted for myself around New Year’s is the only thing keeping me from feeling like a total slouch and loserface. I remember Bjork in an interview awhile back talking about how Iceland has so many writers because people just hole up during the long winters and work on their art and read books like crazy. So I’m taking a page from the Icelandic here and working on my own books. I’ll drive myself nuts in the meantime, but at least I’ll have a book. But the key is “semi-big” — large enough to feel like a worthy endeavor but not so overwhelming that when you take a Lazy Bastard Weekend, you feel like you’re falling behind.

Clean Out Your Closet

It always happens in the off-season…I take out my stored-away seasonal clothes and look longingly at them and tell them how much I miss them. I used to not believe in seasonality and just wore summer dresses with tights and cardigans, but I’ve come around to the idea of a time and place for clothes. And I do appreciate clothes more if I wear them only at their appointed seasons, if only for the surprisingly durable thrill of feeling like I get a whole new wardrobe every season. But I do cheat my trying on summer clothes and giving them a good cull in the middle of winter. It’s not as self-reinventing as a full-on cleaning out of the closet, but it’s a nice way to remind you of the season to come — because as much as it can feel the grey days (and lingering cold) will never go away, it will, and your aqua-blue bicycle print sundress will be waiting for you when it does.

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