Winter has never been my favorite season. In fact, it’s difficult for me to name even one positive aspect of a cold, snowy, gray New England winter.
Everything has been different this year, and thanks to COVID, I’m expecting that I won’t be able to go to restaurants and friends’ houses as frequently as I have in winters past, which I know will have a negative impact on my mental health.
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But I’m ready for it. I’ve known for months that the places I go– bars, restaurants, and gyms– could possibly shut down again during the colder months, so I’ve been preparing in the best way that I know possible — by establishing a routine.
Routines are the single most important thing that helps me thrive. So, I’ve been creating a routine that will allow me to thrive this winter, and I’m adopting the habits now so when the weather does change, I’ll be ready.
Some of the most important habits I like to include in my daily life are consistent exercise, healthy eating patterns, a reasonable bedtime and waking time, and good hygiene routines while I’m working from home.
Exercising regularly has become an integral part of my life and helps boost my mood, especially on cold days. When gyms shut down earlier this year, it completely disrupted my routine, and I found it difficult to motivate myself to workout at home. Just in case gyms shut down again, I’ve set up a workout space at home that is separate from my bedroom with some equipment that I purchased over the last few months. I feel confident that I’ll be able to transition to completely working out at home if gyms do close once more.
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Healthy eating is something that I’ve also incorporated into my life with exercise over the past few years. For many years, I felt sick from eating foods like microwave pizza, but I’ve felt lighter and healthier since eating fewer processed foods and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet. It’s not always easy to eat healthy or even to cook at home, but I know that it saves money and keeps me feeling good. I’ve found some amazing winter recipes that I’m looking forward to making this season, like beef stew, pot roast, and chili.
Everyone’s needs are different, but during winter I tend to stay inside all day, especially if I don’t have to go to work. Taking a vitamin D supplement that was recommended by my doctor helps to make up for my vitamin D deficiency, which is a common problem during the winter that can lead to depression or low moods.
Adhering to a reasonable bedtime is something I’ve struggled with ever since I was a teenager. This only got worse when Connecticut first shut down in March and I no longer had to commute to work. I found myself staying up later and later until I was stuck in a routine of going to bed at 2 a.m.
I’ve been working on keeping a consistent bedtime for the last month, and I’ve slowly been able to fall asleep and wake up earlier, which makes me more productive during the day. Not only does this help with getting my work done, but I’ve had more energy to do hobbies I enjoy, like hiking or reading. I used to find reading difficult, because I would feel tired every time I sat down comfortably to read a book.
Like many other people who suddenly began working from home in March, I no longer had to wake up an extra hour early in the morning to make myself presentable. There were multiple days where I stumbled out of bed at 8:29 a.m. to log on for work at 8:30 a.m. in my pajamas.
Now, I wake up and wash my face, brush my teeth, and brush my hair before I do anything else. I’ll usually workout in the mornings and then shower after, but even if I don’t workout, I still take a quick shower and change out of my pajamas and into at least jeans and a nice top. Since I’m indoors most of the day, I also find it fun to dress festively to still experience the seasons. In the summer I wore mostly dresses, while now I’ve transitioned to fall-themed sweaters. I’m looking forward to still wearing Christmas sweaters and socks in November and December to still feel holiday cheer.
If things do shut down again, the most important thing that I’ll be missing is human interaction. Even though I’m an introvert, I’ve found quarantine to be difficult at times and missed spending time with my friends and family. So, I have made plans with them to virtually see each other if we can’t see each other in person through Zoom dinner dates and game nights.
The best part about forming habits is that eventually, they become second-nature. Working out in the mornings has become as natural as brushing my teeth because I’m so used to it now. But life is unpredictable, and I know there will be many times when my routine is interrupted. As important as structure is, knowing that this will happen and being okay a change with it is just as important. This year has been unpredictable, and if I can’t complete my routine one day, I know that tomorrow will be a new day to get right back to it.
Setting myself up for success with a routine built upon my health and happiness is going to make the biggest difference for me this year and help me to stay positive and productive in an unpredictable (and cold) time.