Steps I Am Taking To Survive the Winter Doom-Feeling

If you’re living in New England right now, or maybe popping in for a visit, you’re experiencing something we all love to hate: an early winter.

It’s been years, it seems, since this has happened to us. In fact, I can’t remember a year in my post-undergraduate life (which admittedly is not that long) in which I did not marvel at how the temperatures remained remarkably tolerable until about mid-January, when Real Winter would inevitably set in and no one went outside anymore. Each year, I’d remind myself: this isn’t what it’s always been like; don’t grow comfortable.

And yet, of course, I did. And now, here I am: shivering under two blankets, an undershirt and a supposedly sherpa pullover from a major retailer.

For most people I know, myself included, this has me thinking about two things: the fact that April is vulgarly far away and the fact that I might actually be miserable for every month until it finally arrives.

So, as we settle into our first full winter in this home, I am taking drastic steps toward embracing the good scents, warm lighting, and sweet smells that I can extract from this already too-cold season. I suppose this means that I’m just unabashedly getting really into hygge, or whatever, but I don’t know if I feel equipped to call it that. What I do know is that one morning recently I woke up and a thought came to my mind: this place smells like a damn craft store.

I was pleased. And now, after several days of living like this, I am cautiously optimistic that if I cannot cure my seasonally downturned mood, perhaps I can stave some of the misery off, keep the sensation of an interminably chilly waiting room at bay. Time will tell if I’m successful — March Monica might scoff at November Monica in all of her ignorance. But I won’t know until I try and right now, trying smells very, very good.

The steps I am taking are not drastic or even novel, but sometimes the obviousness of something can make it difficult to realize. For one, I’ve just entirely given in to candles, especially the kind they sell at a discount at drugstores. I put them everywhere, and often several piled up on top of each other. The ottoman in my living room currently has three, my table has two — on top of scented pinecones and dried lavender. And where candles won’t do, or perhaps where I am feeling creative, I have hung those scented cinnamon brooms they sell at the grocery store, or else plugged in an electronic air freshener set to some apple-ish selection. The resulting effect is a whirlwind of fall and winter cozy smells that might give you a headache but which makes me feel less bad about having two dogs who drool and shed on everything.

Lighting has also been essential when it comes to my gracefully dealing with perpetually dark or overcast skies. This, I have known for years. We may scoff at dorm room decor, but the kids, as they say, are really on to something with at least one perennial September staple: string lights. Unless you want to feel like you are in a department store, I suggest buying the “warm” kind. They light the room without really providing any light at all, but somehow they trick my brain into thinking that this is fine and acceptable. I choose not to fight.

Perhaps all of this makes you want to reach for a bottle of wine, but that’s something I’m personally doing less of. Largely this is because I’ve found that my anxiety also spikes during the cold months, and even one or two glasses of vino at night can surge my stress levels astronomically the next day. I’m far from a teetotaller, to be sure, but perhaps a warm tea might also provide you that soothing warmness that sinks you into the couch a little further on a Wednesday evening? (Last night, I had SleepyTime tea at 7:45 p.m. and fell asleep on the couch by 8:30, and let me tell you — it was glorious.)

Aside from accosting my nostrils and hurting my eyes, I’m also stuffing spinach down my gullet every time I think about it and forcing myself to stick to a regular exercise regimen. Neither of these will cure depression but they do provide wonderful distractions from the fact that I cannot, at any given point in time, detect sensation in my nose or fingertips, because the most indefatigable beast on this godforsaken planet is the winter draft.

Again, I implore you to hear me: none of what I am doing is special or spectacular or unheard of. But my commitment to building what is essentially a wintertime bunker replete with none of the things you’d need to actually survive a devastating weather event has been doing wonders for my mental health so far. Which is to say that, with these foolish steps and the five different bottles of moisturizer peppered throughout my living space, I’m hopeful that I might get to springtime with at least a little ambition leftover. At the very least, I probably smell like a Starbucks. People like Starbucks.


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