Winter Blues

It’s that time of year: The whirlwind of holiday activity is over, there is an abundance of inclement weather, and you’re feeling downright crummy. I give you “Stef’s Tips for Combating the Winter Blues.”

First, you need a good soundtrack. I really enjoy music from the 1920s, and I’ve been listening to the legendary Bessie Smith a lot lately. She did a rendition of the blues classic “‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness if I Do.” (Do what, you ask? I don’t know; it’s not my business.)

She also gifted us with “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer.” The trick here is to listen to songs about drinking without consuming alcohol yourself, as a depressant combined with long winter evenings when you’re already feeling down to begin with is a phenomenally bad idea.

I find it striking how listening to the blues can make you feel better. But if you have more of a jazz bent, I recommend Miles Davis’ album “Kind of Blue,” which I feel goes well with the month of January and several cups of hot tea.

Next, you need to build your nest. This needs to be your designated space where you feel a sense of relaxation, well-being, and belonging. As Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would say, “That’s my spot.”

I like to cuddle up in a fuzzy wrap. I have one that is gray that reminds me of mouse fur. Then I can snack on nibblin’ cheese. (This is defined as a cheese you buy in the fancy section that’s good enough to eat by itself.) Or if you have something brown, you could pretend you’re a bear and open a jar of nuts. Whatever works.

I have found that nothing improves my mood like reading Erma Bombeck. I have been a fan of her writing for over 30 years and it never gets old; I still find myself laughing out loud. And you have to love someone who got her start by writing a column for a newspaper.

A fun, uplifting movie is also a mood enhancer. You may have to look a bit harder this kind of film these days but they’re still out there. Even through high school I was not allowed to go to a movie on a school night so to this day when I watch something at home on a weeknight I feel like I’m really getting away with something, which makes me smile.

It’s comforting to have a batch of something going in a slow cooker. I feel better when I know there is hot food waiting for me that was put together with very little inconvenience to myself. I made experimental shrimp and grits on New Year’s Day. It turned out surprisingly well which was nice considering I had a generous amount leftover.

Animals have been scientifically proven to help one’s mood. Unfortunately I can’t have real pets, due to allergies and apartment living. But I’ve developed a reputation among my friends for having a penchant for goats, so there are frequent posts to my Facebook page that feature goats talking, frolicking, or otherwise getting into trouble.

Once you’ve had some time taking care of yourself, you need to remember those who may need some help. Maybe you can take groceries or a home-cooked meal to a neighbor who has difficulty getting out. Or work a jigsaw puzzle with a friend who just needs some company.

Even little kindnesses can make a difference in the lives of those around you: Open a door for someone, let the person behind you in line check out before you, smile and make eye contact with those you pass so that they will feel noticed and know that they matter.

Thank those who are in your life and tell them how much they mean to you. A hand-written note means so much and takes only minutes to compose. Keeping a notebook of things for which you are thankful is a way to record all the good things in your life instead of focusing on the bad.

Then there’s always the attitude of “If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.” (Although as Grumpy Cat points out, if life doesn’t also give you sugar and water then your lemonade is going to be pretty awful.) But at this time of year the saying might be better expressed as: If life gives you snow, then make a snowman!